Training Camp Buzz Roundup: How Tom Brady Could Hit Free Agency in 2020
The first full week of August is here, which means every NFL team is now preparing for a preseason game. All 32 will take the field either Thursday, Friday or Saturday, which means competitions are heating up.
Unfortunately, there's still plenty of news regarding injuries and contract disputes as summer rages on. It comes with the territory.
We're here to provide a full wrap-up on the developments that generated buzz in training camps across the country Monday.
Tom Brady Could Still Hit Free Agency in 2020
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick predictably wasn't interested in discussing Tom Brady's new contract extension Monday. But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the 42-year-old's new deal does not allow the Pats to hit him with the franchise or transition tag in 2020.
"The final two years automatically void on the last day of the 2019 league year, but he cannot be tagged," Rapoport added. "Brady will be a free agent."
"A source with knowledge of the contract" told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that "the deal falls beyond the category of contracts that cannot be renegotiated for at least one full calendar year. Thus, a new contract can be executed before the current one expires."
Still, Brady's future in New England is technically no more certain now than it was before he signed his "extension." He got a nice new raise of $8 million and the Patriots saved more than $5 million in salary-cap space, but there isn't much more to it than that.
Of course, the likelihood of Brady joining another team is tantamount to that of Suidae taking flight. We know he isn't going anywhere, because he's been giving the Pats discounts for the better part of two decades.
The bigger question is whether he'll play football at all beyond 2019.
Report: Jadeveon Clowney Plans to Show Up After Houston's 3rd Preseason Game
Barring a Le'Veon Bell-esque stunt, Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been destined to play out the 2019 season on a $15.97 million tender ever since the deadline for franchise-tag recipients to sign long-term deals passed on July 15.
The three-time Pro Bowler has been staying away from the team, but it appears as though there's light at the end of his holdout tunnel.
Rapoport reported Monday that Clowney tentatively plans to report to the team after its third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 24.
"That is my understanding of when Clowney is planning to show up," Rapoport said. "(He) wouldn't play in the fourth preseason game. Would get a week to make sure he's alright. And I am told he's in great shape. And the Texans don't have any worries there."
That's good news for the Texans and their fans, even if this may be the 26-year-old's final season in Houston.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Continues to Lead Josh Rosen in Miami's QB Competition
One of the NFL's only quarterback battles right now is an intriguing one between grizzled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and maligned sophomore Josh Rosen, both of whom joined the Miami Dolphins this offseason.
Fitzpatrick has seemingly been leading said competition throughout the spring and summer. And although Rosen may have gained some ground by outplaying Fitzpatrick in a Saturday scrimmage, Miami released a new unofficial depth chart Monday that still has the 36-year-old journeyman in the top spot.
"I like some of the things Ryan did, I like some of the things Josh did," head coach Brian Flores said Monday, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. "This is a good quarterback competition."
It seems odd that a team clearly in rebuilding mode would want to waste any time with Fitzpatrick, who has a 50-75 career win-loss record with seven different teams. The Harvard product has always been a good backup and solid occasional starter, but he clearly isn't the future in Miami (or anywhere).
Dolphins fans are likely praying that Rosen can outperform Fitzpatrick in the team's preseason opener Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons. Progress from Rosen in 2019 would give the Dolphins a lot more hope for 2020 than a season in which Fitzpatrick does most of the quarterbacking.
Indianapolis Colts Claim D'Onta Foreman
In what turned out to be his final game as a member of the Texans, running back D'Onta Foreman carried the ball just once in a deflating 21-7 home playoff loss to the division-rival Indianapolis Colts in January.
The Texans waived the 2017 third-round pick Sunday, which paved the way for him to join the relative dark side one day later.
Per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Colts claimed Foreman off waivers Monday.
In Indy, Foreman will have to come on strong to make the final roster, let alone earn playing time. He joins a packed backfield that includes projected top option Marlon Mack as well as 2018 middle-round picks Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins and veteran Spencer Ware.
The 23-year-old rushed for an outrageous 2,028 yards as a junior in the Big 12, but a torn Achilles spoiled most of his first two NFL seasons, and he has only 85 career carries under his belt. Making matters worse, the Chronicle's John McClain reported following his release that "Foreman's work habits and a continuing problem for being late to meetings" factored in.
He's likely on thin ice in his new home, but he could draw inspiration from the Colts' games against the Texans in both October and November.
All 4 Panthers Quarterbacks Expected to Play in Preseason Opener
Days after the Carolina Panthers used a third-round pick on intriguing former West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier alluded to the situation as the competition "no one wants to talk about."
Three months later, there's no indication that Grier is pushing Newton, who seems to be making progress after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on the balky throwing shoulder that derailed his 2018 campaign. But the Panthers also have yet to play a game against a hostile opponent.
That'll change when they kick off their 2019 preseason schedule Thursday night on the road against the Chicago Bears. And Grier and Carolina's other two backups will have opportunities to send messages.
According to Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told the media Monday that Newton, Grier and returning backups Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke should play against the Bears.
Allen and Heinicke did nothing last season to indicate they're going to become NFL starters, and Grier will probably need time to develop. He may even need to be tamed a bit, and the experience Thursday in Chicago might only reinforce the idea that Newton will be the man for a long time to come.
Still, it bears watching how Newton's shoulder looks, as well as how Grier and his new teammates/competitors look after a full offseason of practice.
Miles Sanders Is Putting on a Show in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of running backs on their roster.
The presence of trade acquisition Jordan Howard and veteran Darren Sproles as well as Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Donnel Pumphrey might have caused you to wonder how many opportunities rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders would receive.
But just a week after NJ.com's Mike Kay reported Sanders "has looked the part" despite missing much of the offseason program with a hamstring injury, Kay's colleague, Zack Rosenblatt, noted the Penn State product "has easily been the most impressive runner on the team through 10 training camp practices."
Rosenblatt added Sanders still has to prove himself when it comes to "pass-catching, pass protection and ball security." But after a dominant season as a college starter, his NFL career appears to be off to a great start.
We'll see if it carries over to game action when the Eagles take on the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.
Sony Michel Is Doing the Same in New England
There's more certainty in New England regarding second-year back Sony Michel, who finished with 336 rushing yards and six touchdowns in last year's playoffs and is expected to be the top dog in the Patriots backfield in 2019.
But the threat of a sophomore slump is always looming, which is why it's a good sign that Michel continued to generate positive buzz at Pats camp Monday.
The 24-year-old caught only seven passes as a rookie, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic noted he "has quickly become a reliable receiving option" in New England.
"Michel has caught all eight passes from Brady during camp, and he is doing it with a variety of routes," he wrote. "These aren't always just dump-offs over the middle, either."
Howe added the Georgia product is "beating man coverage" and "finding soft spots in zones" as a pass-catcher.
James White is already an excellent pass-catching back for the Pats, but Tom Brady's arm isn't as strong as it used to be. With Rob Gronkowski retired, Chris Hogan gone and Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith all hurt, the Pats could use as much help as possible in the receiving game.
Sam Darnold Is Apparently Looking Stronger
Michel isn't the only AFC East offensive skill-position player looking to make a major leap in his second season.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but he finished relatively strong with a 102.8 passer rating in his final three games. The 2018 No. 3 overall pick will try to build on that with more support and a new quarterback-friendly coaching staff this season.
ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reported Monday that the team believes Darnold's "arm strength is better than a year ago."
"It's interesting because a lot of people in the spring were saying that to me, that it looked like he was throwing with a lot more velocity," new Jets head coach Adam Gase said, per Cimini.
Cimini said Darnold cited improved mechanics and "a more structured throwing regimen" for the increase in velocity, with Darnold adding that confidence is also a factor.
"Yeah, it comes with confidence, the confidence of knowing I can go out there and do this," he said, per Cimini. "It's not that I didn't know that last year. It's just that with this offense, I feel like I already know most of it, so I'm just going out there and spinning it."
We'll see how that translates starting with the Jets' preseason opener Thursday against the New York Giants.
The Jets Continue to Bolster Their Offensive Line
Darnold will be better-supported in 2019 thanks mainly to Gase—who is an established quarterback guru—and new star running back Le'Veon Bell.
But to the Jets' credit, they've also bolstered their offensive line.
Gang Green acquired veteran guard Kelechi Osemele earlier this offseason. And in the past week, they added a pair of veterans in center Ryan Kalil (who came out of retirement Thursday to sign with them) and guard Alex Lewis (who they acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, per Brian Costello of the New York Post.)
Lewis is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but he was a fourth-round pick in 2016 and started 10 games for the Ravens in 2018. He can be a quality player, and he still has some upside.
He gives the Jets another option in the middle, which is ideal since Osemele is likely declining and Kalil is 34 years old.
Did Trey Burton Suffer a Setback?
We also got plenty of injury updates to kick off the week. Here are some of the notable developments:
- Bears tight end Trey Burton missed a third consecutive practice, leading to speculation that he had suffered a setback in his recovery from offseason sports hernia surgery. "It's not a setback," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said, per Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. "It's more of ... I'm trying to protect him a little bit. I need him and we need him 100 percent for Week 1."
- Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (calf) remains out of practice, but he did tell Peter King of NBC Sports that he believes he'll be ready for Week 1.
- Colts defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard will be out an "undetermined" amount of time after undergoing a knee procedure, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59/CBS4.
- Buffalo Bills offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle has a torn quad and is likely out for the year, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said Monday that linebacker Lavonte David underwent a procedure to address a torn meniscus in his left knee, according to Scott Smith of the team's official website. "Nothing serious," Arians said, per ESPN's Jenna Laine. "He’ll be ready to go soon."
- Arizona Cardinals guard Justin Pugh will miss some time due to a shoulder injury, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury says it "shouldn't be too long," according to Darren Urban of the team's official website.
- Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the team is trying to determine if tight end Ed Dickson will need knee surgery that could sideline him for roughly one month, according to ESPN's Brady Henderson.