Buying or Selling Latest NFL Buzz and Rumors Around Minicamps
Before NFL teams break away for a six-week intermission, there are still a few days of chatter regarding expectations, rumors and potential roster moves.
Will we see a three-time All-Pro on the move following a holdout? Can the Indianapolis Colts finally breathe a sigh of relief about their quarterback's long recovery? How good is the Cleveland Browns wide receiver unit?
When sifting through all the headlines, a few seem reasonable while others raise an eyebrow. Let's take a look at eight hot topics and conclude a buy or sell verdict for each item.
Will the Dallas Cowboys Trade for Safety Earl Thomas?
Back in May, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll expected safety Earl Thomas to join the team for mandatory minicamp, but the three-time All-Pro took to social media to state he wouldn't attend any team activities until he was presented with an acceptable contract.
The 29-year-old goes into the last year of his deal with an $8.5 million base salary this year, per Spotrac.
After Tuesday's minicamp session, Carroll said "we'll see" if Thomas plays for the Seahawks in September.
The contract dispute reopened trade speculation that started around the draft, per ESPN.com's Dan Graziano:
"There’s a sense around the league that the Dallas Cowboys aren’t done making a push for Thomas, who’d fill a major need on their defense. Two sources said the trade discussions between Seattle and Dallas have centered around the Cowboys’ second-round pick (No. 50 overall), but that no deal will be done until the Cowboys figure out whether they can sign Thomas long term."
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill confirmed the Cowboys still have a lingering interest in Thomas after his statement.
"While the Cowboys have expressed confidence in 2017 sixth-round pick Xavier Woods being able to step in at free safety with Jeff Heath ... competing at strong safety, the team has also quietly held out hope of being able to acquire ... Thomas in a trade with Seattle."
Until Thomas signs a reconfigured deal with the Seahawks or general manager John Schneider decides to move him, we'll continue to hear speculation about the six-time Pro Bowler joining his former defensive coordinator, Kris Richard, who now serves as a defensive backs coach in Dallas.
Thomas, 29, may force his way out of Seattle. It's a strong possibility Schneider grants his wish to play for the Cowboys sooner than later.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Did the New England Patriots Gauge Trade Interest in Rob Gronkowski?
The New England Patriots wouldn't send the best tight end in the league to another team, would they? Well, possibly for adequate compensation, which would be a steep price. Team owner Robert Kraft denied rumors about a potential deal with the San Francisco 49ers or Tennessee Titans. He called them "hogwash," per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.
However, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio reported the team picked up the phone three days before the draft to gauge the trade market for Gronkowski.
Before dismissing Florio's report, it's important to note the time frame, which makes sense. Gronkowski took an extended period to contemplate his future—possibly mulling retirement, per MMQB's Albert Breer.
"I believe Rob Gronkowski's rumblings about retirement are real," he wrote. "He's been responsible with his finances (putting away most of his football money and living largely off his endorsement cash), and he's taken an absolute beating."
Gronkowski went public on Instagram about his decision to continue his career two days before the draft. Why not attempt to move a player who isn't certain about his future?
Nothing materialized, but it's a smart football move, the reporting is from reliable sources and the timing makes sense. That makes it believable.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Is Dez Bryant an Option for the Patriots?
For the time being, wide receiver Julian Edelman will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, per ESPN's Adam Schefter and Field Yates. He filed an appeal, but the team may have to start the season with Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and Malcolm Mitchell in expanded roles.
New England traded Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, and Danny Amendola signed with the Miami Dolphins during free agency. The two pass-catchers combined for 1,741 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. So the team is going to need help, and there's been speculation that Dez Bryant could show up in Foxborough.
Mike Reiss of ESPN.com recently shot that down, though.
"While it's always possible, I don't see the Patriots signing Dez Bryant in the wake of Julian Edelman appealing his four-game suspension, in part because they still have a lot of in-house options to fill the void," he wrote.
The Patriots have three receivers who are only two years removed from productive seasons. In his rookie year (2016), Malcolm Mitchell had 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Matthews accumulated 73 receptions, 804 yards and three scores with the Philadelphia Eagles that same year. Kenny Britt's 1,002 receiving yards led the Los Angeles Rams receiving corps two seasons ago.
Bryant probably wouldn't think twice about signing on the dotted line, but the Patriots don't need him with Edelman's appeal in process, Gronkowski healthy and multiple short-term fill-in options who can help fill the receiving void.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Will Andrew Luck Play Week 1?
There's never been so much publicity for a person throwing a football at practice. But lo and behold, quarterback Andrew Luck threw a high school football during the Colts mandatory minicamp session Tuesday and no one could shut up about it.
It was his first time throwing a ball since last October. He added some optimism after practice when he gave a definitive response about his thoughts on commanding the huddle Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Absolutely," Luck told reporters. "No knock on wood. I believe it in my bones."
No one would blame Colts fans for being skeptical. Last year, they held out hope for Luck's return until he landed on injured reserve in November. Before the shutdown, the three-time Pro Bowler experienced lingering pain in his surgically repaired shoulder after starting to throw again, per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.
Luck's confidence and short pass in front of the media provide some light for a team that could push for a playoff spot with its signal-caller healthy.
It's a positive Luck didn't require an additional surgery in his recovery. Barring any setbacks, it might even be safe to buy what he's selling as a Week 1 starter.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Will Baltimore Ravens' Two-Quarterback Formation Provide Significant Impact?
Baltimore Ravens rookie signal-caller Lamar Jackson could take over for starter Joe Flacco in the near future. For now, they're sharing the field with the first-team offense on some plays at practice.
"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out," head coach John Harbaugh told ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.
We know Jackson has the potential to play all over the field, but it's more surprising to hear Flacco lined up in spots other than under center.
"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."
It's plausible to use Jackson as a ball-carrier. The Louisville product justifiably refused to embrace a move to wide receiver during the draft process, but one has to wonder if he'll split out in the formation for a few targets.
It's unlikely the Ravens use two-quarterback formations frequently. The front office didn't draft two tight ends in the first three rounds and sign wideouts Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown to focus on gadget plays for a rookie signal-caller. It's more important that Flacco builds chemistry with his new receiving assets.
Jackson could handle a few carries near the red zone, but don't expect the Ravens to revolutionize their offensive attack with a dual-quarterback look.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Is Teddy Bridgewater's Trade Value Rising?
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a severe knee injury during the 2016 offseason that stunted his career growth with the Minnesota Vikings. He's thrown just two passes in the last two seasons. General manager Rick Spielman selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft but went in a new direction by signing Kirk Cousins in March.
Bridgewater signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets, and he stood out during organized team activities. If he continues to flash talent, teams may start placing calls to acquire the 25-year-old signal-caller. NJ.com reporter Darryl Slater suggested Gang Green could land a third- or fourth-round pick for Bridgewater.
"[It's] tough to imagine the Jets getting something like a second-round draft pick for Bridgewater, considering he is on a one-year contract and really hasn't proven his knee can stay healthy in prolonged regular-season action. Maybe a third-rounder or fourth-rounder in a trade."
It's fair compensation if Bridgewater shows some mobility and command of the huddle through the preseason. If another team needs a fill-in for an injured starter partway through the season, Bridgewater via trade could be the move. That team would have to be angling for a playoff spot though, otherwise losing a middle-round pick for a quarterback who's going to hit the free-agent market in the offseason is a tough sell.
If the Jets start rookie Sam Darnold or 16th-year veteran Josh McCown, it's best to move Bridgewater as soon as possible before any of his value fades. It all sounds feasible, it just depends on the situation that arises.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Will Jay Ajayi Become the Philadelphia Eagles' Workhorse Running Back?
There are semantics at play here. What's a workhorse running back? The exact criteria may vary from person to person, but most would agree it's a tailback who takes on the vast majority load in the backfield. The ability to stay on the field for all three downs also fits within the criteria. Will the Eagles use running back Jay Ajayi in that fashion?
Duce Staley talked about Ajayi as "the guy" in the backfield, per Chris McPherson of the team's official website. "Just him being focused, coming in, knowing he's the guy, knowing he's the guy that's going to step up there and just put everything on his back and ride with him."
LeGarrette Blount signed with the Detroit Lions during free agency, which adds to Ajayi's workload. However, the Eagles have the assets to form a strong backfield committee.
Darren Sproles has caught 532 passes for 4,656 yards and 30 touchdowns through 12 seasons. Assuming the younger running backs make it through final cuts, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey will chip into the lead ball-carrier's workload. If third-year tailback Matt Jones or undrafted rookie Josh Adams remains on the active roster, they're both candidates to steal early-down touches.
Ajayi could average 15 carries per game, but it's a slight stretch to envision him in a workhorse role with plenty of options in the backfield.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Do the Cleveland Browns Have the Best Wide Receiver Corps?
After a walkthrough on Tuesday, wideout Josh Gordon ranked the Browns wide receiver corps as the best in the league, and Jarvis Landry agreed, per Zac Jackson of The Athletic.
It's expected Gordon and Landry would boast about their group, and there's a good reason for the optimism.
Aside from the two veterans, Corey Coleman still has room for development after showing flashes in two shortened seasons due to hand injuries. Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins took incremental steps in progress between their rookie and sophomore years. The Browns selected Antonio Callaway, who comes into the league with high upside, in the fourth round of April's draft.
There's no doubt Cleveland has a wide receiver corps that's stacked with potential and two proven commodities leading the group. However, Gordon hasn't been through a full season since 2012 due to multiple suspensions.
Landry still needs to show he's able to stretch defenses downfield. It's something offensive coordinator Todd Haley worked on during OTAs, per BrownsZone writer Scott Petrak. "After viewing three OTAs practices, it appears coordinator Todd Haley trusts Landry to do much more than run 5-yard hooks and sit in the soft spot of the defense. He's been able to get open on a variety of routes, including about 20 yards down the seam to beat safety Jabrill Peppers."
Until we're able to see the two veterans leap those hurdles, it's difficult to rank the Browns wide receiver unit as the best, but top-three seems fitting.
The Oakland Raiders wide receiver corps features Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant—all proven commodities, two with multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Despite the fear of another suspension for the third wideout listed in that trio, per Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Michael Gehlken, the group jumps out as the best for the time being.
Looking at the overall production of the Los Angeles Chargers stable with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams' upside, their group also comes to mind.
Buy or Sell: Sell