Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Cards Playing Games with Sudden Interest in Bosa

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 3, 2019

Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Cardinals have their draft sights set, referee retirements could be costly this fall, and how much would you pay to sit in your favorite team's draft war room? All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. Where's there's smoke, there's deception

This past week, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, the Cardinals met with Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa. It was due diligence by the Cardinals, who hold the No. 1 pick in this month's draft. It was smart. It was also, some teams believe, a massive head fake.

Teams with the top pick historically have broken bread with the top four or five prospects. Some people in the NFL are old-school. They don't think you truly get to know a prospect until you meet with his parents and have a meal with him. And Bosa isn't a bad prospect to know. He's the best defensive player in the draft and also one of its best athletes. Bosa has so much power, speed, talent, aggression and overall skill that he can potentially transform a defense almost immediately.

Yet the dinner, teams tell me, hasn't changed many minds regarding the Cardinals' plan at the top. They believe Arizona will pick Murray and, likely on the day of the draft, also trade last year's first-round pick, Josh Rosen.

That belief has remained steadfast even after news emerged that Bosa would again visit with the Cardinals on Thursday and Friday of this week. 

No one is guaranteeing Murray to Arizona. No one can. Only Tom Brady and God can see into the future. (My bad. I know, they're the same person.)

But many teams believe the Cardinals' interest in Bosa is a well-executed smoke screen designed to lure a team into giving up a treasure trove of draft assets to move up and get Bosa.

To be fair, it's possible teams claiming Arizona is utilizing a smoke screen are themselves using a smoke screen. You know, that I know, that you know, that I know. This is the draft. Everyone lies.

Still, the tea leaves are telling us the Cards are looking to draft a quarterback. This week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen added another piece to the puzzle when he reported that Washington might be a destination for Rosen. This type of information doesn't get out by accident. It feels like the Cardinals are trying to let other teams know Rosen is available, and they wouldn't be floating that unless they were leaning heavily toward Murray.

That doesn't mean Bosa couldn't be the pick, and so long as the Cardinals don't pipe too much of Beyonce's music into the locker room, he likely would be happy there.

But, for now, the Cardinals still see Murray as an even more transformational figure because he's a quarterback and has the potential to have a far greater impact than even Bosa, no matter how good the meal was behind all of that smoke.


2. Wanted in Washington: A new QB

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 30: Josh Rosen #3 of the Arizona Cardinals warms-up before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

As we can deduce from the aforementioned report that Washington may have an interest in acquiring Rosen, finding a quarterback is high on the wish list in D.C., I've heard.

Teams tell me they wouldn't be shocked if Washington traded up to get Dwayne Haskins. Washington is far more desperate, I've been told, to get a quarterback than it is publicly letting on.

This comes with the usual caveat that this is the draft and everyone lies, but I believe this. With the injury to Alex Smith, Washington knows it needs much more talent at that position, and it can't win with the quarterbacks it has on the roster now.


3. Radio silent

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 30:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

If a report that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is ending his radio show is true, it's a smart move. A really smart one.

The program, on occasion, has been an issue in the Pittsburgh locker room for years, as Roethlisberger has used the platform to criticize teammates, including former Steeler Antonio Brown.

Getting rid of it would go a long way to ending a major source of internal strife between a host of players and their star QB.


4. Brain drain

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots greets referee John Parry #132 prior to Super Bowl LIII against Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Ima
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This week, NFL head of officiating Al Riveron announced that John Parry retired. He worked this past Super Bowl, plus two others, and was in the NFL for 19 years. He was one of the league's most respected and longest-tenured officials, and now he'll be applying his knowledge at ESPN.

Refs retire all the time, and while it may seem like they're robots who always blow calls, they are actually flesh-and-blood beings who always blow calls.

Parry's retirement, however, is significant. It means yet another veteran official is leaving at a time when the game needs all the experience it can get, especially after the league just adopted a smart (but likely amazingly complicated) rule allowing challenges of pass-interference calls and non-calls.

As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk points out, referees Pete Morelli, Walt Coleman, Ed Hochuli, Terry McAulay, Jeff Triplette and Gene Steratore have retired over the last two seasons

This will be one of the most challenging years for officiating in recent NFL history, and the league has lost some of its longest-tenured refs. The NFL always adapts, and the games go on, but the experience drain is sure to take a toll.


5. A perplexing plan

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Would the Giants really keep quarterback Eli Manning beyond this season? As impossible as that seems, it could happen.

As Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reports, neither of the Giants co-owners would rule out such a move. Keeping him would be...incredible. You don't need a dose of statistics or extensive film study to see that Manning is in a rapid state of decline.

So what are the Giants thinking? Hell if I know. Hell if anyone knows. Maybe extending Manning's contract might be more of a long-term salary-cap move? Or perhaps the team is thinking it could draft a QB this year or next and have Manning mentor him. Having Manning, a good person and teammate, to teach a young player how to play quarterback in the NFL would be valuable.

The more likely scenario, however, is that the Giants are rebuilding and don't want to publicly admit it. They will run Saquon Barkley until his legs fall off—and not require Manning to make a lot of plays while they wait to draft a quarterback on which they are sold. This isn't a winning plan, but it might work well enough for them to be competitive.

It could work...maybe?


6. Value is all in the eye of the beholder

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 06:  Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Soldier Field on January 06, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jordan Howard is a good running back. In three seasons in Chicago, as NBC's Peter King noted, Howard rushed for 3,370 yards. He's steady, reliable and is just 24.

So why did the Eagles only have to give up a sixth-round pick to get him from Chicago? It's a passing league. While some teams, such as the Rams, view the running back position still as vital, many in the league do not. If a team is going to invest heavily in a back, it wants him to be explosive. Howard averaged (as King writes) 3.7 yards per carry last year and 4.1 YPC the year before. That's pedestrian.

There is one caveat. The Eagles are far from perfect, but they are smart as hell about acquiring talent. As seemingly average as he was in Chicago, there's a chance Howard transforms into something better in Philadelphia. As ESPN Stats & Info found:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Jordan Howard is 1 of 3 players with at least 250 touches and 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of the last 3 seasons. The others are Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. https://t.co/0lf5jr4D2j

That's some good company to be in.


7. Meanwhile, in Chicago...

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 06:  Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bearswarms up prior to the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on January 06, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Howard's departure means that Tarik Cohen is now the main running threat in Chicago. He's 5'6" and 179 pounds, but he has proved capable of handling most of the carries. And with the backfield duties largely his alone now, Cohen could emerge as a superstar this coming season.

But no running back is indestructible, so watch for the Bears to bolster the position in the draft. And from what I've been told, Penn State's Miles Sanders is a player to keep an eye on for Chicago.


8. Mo' money

Evan Siegle/Associated Press

The 49ers, according to sport business reporter Darren Rovell of the Action Network, are selling two seats in the team's draft room for $22,000.

While the money this year is going to charity, make no mistake that this is only the beginning. We are in an era in which the league seeks to monetize everything possible.

It's only a matter of time before a number of teams follow the Niners' lead. Prices will increase, probably drastically given the inside info being offered. And the charity aspect of the whole enterprise will decrease, also probably drastically. Soon, you'll be seeing people pay a lot more than 20-grand to watch the draft process up close.

A novelty now, draft room ticketing is likely to grow the same way ticket sales did for what used to be media day at the Super Bowl, or for access to the scouting combine. Soon, you'll be able to buy used jockstraps on NFL.com.

OK, that last one was a joke.

I think.


9. Pay attention to the league behind the curtain

It still amazes me that men playing one of the most violent sports in the world don't get guaranteed contracts like their professional baseball and basketball counterparts. It also still amazes me that their minimum salaries are the lowest of the four major professional sports.

According to sports tax accountant Robert Raiola:

Robert Raiola, CPA @SportsTaxMan

Minimum salary for 1st year players in 2019: #MLB $555,000 #NFL $495,000 #NBA⁠ ⁠⁠ ⁠⁠⁠⁠ ⁠⁠ ⁠⁠ ⁠⁠⁠ $838,464 (18/19 Season) #NHL $700,000 (18/19 Season)

How NFL players and the union accept this remains a mystery to me. The NFL isn't just the richest league; it's the richest league by a lot. Yet it has pulled off the neat trick of paying its players the least amount of money, in the most physically harmful sport in this country.

That isn't just cold-blooded ruthlessness; it's a damn magic trick.


10. Sean Taylor's legacy

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor leaves the field after his ejection in an NFL wild card playoff game January 7, 2006 in Tampa.  The Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  17 - 10. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Sean Taylor was born on April 1, and every year people like me take a moment to remember him. We do this because he was a special player and person.

Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl safety with Washington was murdered in 2007 during a botched robbery. Taylor was well-liked not just because he was a special football player, but also because he treated everyone around him well: media, teammates, opponents (when he wasn't tackling them).

Taylor had that kind of impact. He won't be forgotten.


 Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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