Biggest Takeaways from Latest 2020 Offseason Buzz

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2020

Biggest Takeaways from Latest 2020 Offseason Buzz

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    Even though the NFL shifted to a virtual offseason through the spring, the news cycle brought some buzz over the past week.

    The league will continue to move forward with precaution as it attempts to minimize coronavirus risks, extending its virtual period through June 26, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

    In the meantime, teams and top free agents still have to conduct business away from the field.

    Two prominent No. 1 overall picks remain unsigned, a top-15 rookie had an injury scare, and a couple of teams could make significant financial investments in star running backs before training camp. 

    We'll highlight the biggest stories midway through June and look ahead at what's next in each situation.

Cam Newton Looks Healthy in New Workout Video

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    If not for foot surgery because of a Lisfranc injury, Cam Newton would likely have a roster spot nearly three months into the new league year. Secondly, he's on the mend during a time when clubs can't privately work him out because of coronavirus-related restrictions.

    Following a successful operation, Newton looks like he's in good shape. The 31-year-old posted a picture on Instagram that illustrates his strength and body control. 

    Of course, workouts at the gym don't equate to game shape, but Newton's dedication indicates he's ready to join a team and work his way back onto the field. 

    The Carolina Panthers signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and subsequently released Newton after they couldn't find a trade partner for the All-Pro signal-caller.

    At this point, every team has a clear-cut starter under center or a potential battle between two players for the position. Newton will likely have to settle for a backup role unless he takes over for a quarterback who suffers an injury before the regular season.

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Wants New Deal

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    The Minnesota Vikings have a crucial financial decision to ponder in the coming weeks. Dalvin Cook wants top-five running back money. He won't partake in any team-related activities "without a reasonable extension," per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, Cook would "gladly" accept approximately $13 million per year. That would match Houston Texans tailback David Johnson's average salary.

    Cook had a breakout 2019 campaign, registering 1,654 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage as the engine of the Vikings' run-heavy offense. He could've suited up for all 16 contests, but the coaching staff allowed him to rest the final two weeks of the regular season with a clavicle injury suffered in early December. 

    From Week 9 through the playoffs, Cook's rushing efficiency took a slight dive. He averaged fewer than 3.3 yards per carry during that stretch. 

    Cook tore his ACL and battled a nagging hamstring issue, which cost him 17 games through his first two terms. Although he could've played through his nicks and bruises last year, the Vikings may not feel enthusiastic about a lucrative extension for a player who's battled injuries in each of his seasons.

    On the other hand, Minnesota's reliance on the ground attack may force general manager Rick Spielman's hand in a contract dispute with Cook.

    In 2019, Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone combined for 735 rushing yards and four touchdowns, but neither running back made notable contributions as pass-catchers. Cook caught 53 passes for 519 yards.

    Although $13 million seems steep for a player with one standout season, the Vikings offense would take a significant step back without Cook. With $12.3 million in cap space, Minnesota should make an attempt to meet its top running back's contract demands.

Tennessee Titans Engaged with RB Derrick Henry's Agent

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    The Tennessee Titans have until the July 15 deadline to hash out a long-term deal with Derrick Henry, who signed a $10.3 million franchise tender. General manager Jon Robinson may check off this item on his offseason to-do list before the summer. He talked to the media about ongoing negotiations with the running back's camp (starting at the 34:00 mark).

    "He wants to get something done," Robinson said. "We want to get something done, and we're working towards that. It's about coming to that common-ground spot as it is in every negotiation. We're anxious to keep the conversations going and keep talking through things."

    Among the most notable players with the franchise tag such as quarterback Dak Prescott, defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett, Henry seems most likely to land a long-term deal well before the deadline.

    In 2019, Henry captured the rushing title, running for 1,540 yards. He's the focal point of the Titans offense, which ranked third on the ground.

    Despite quarterback Ryan Tannehill's Comeback Player of the Year campaign, the Titans relied on Henry during the playoffs. He ran all over the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for a combined 377 yards and a score, leading Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game.

    Tennessee selected running back Darrynton Evans in the third round of April's draft, but Henry, the proven workhorse, will carry the majority load coming off his best year. It's not a matter of if but how much the Titans will pay their top ball-carrier. He'll probably sign for top-five running back money—north of $13 million annually.

New England Patriots RB Sony Michel's Training Camp Status Unclear

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots could open training camp with their top running back on the mend.

    According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, Sony Michel underwent offseason foot surgery. He's already started rehab at the team's facility in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

    Reiss called the procedure on Michel's foot "maintenance-based," but the running back doesn't have a clear timeline for recovery.

    Since the Patriots selected Michel with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he's battled injuries. He needed fluid drained from his knee and a scope but only missed three outings through two seasons.

    Between the 2018 and 2019 terms, Michel's average yards per carry dropped from 4.5 to 3.7. One may wonder if his foot caused some discomfort during the season.

    Because of the accumulation of minor ailments, Michel may have a lighter workload in the upcoming campaign. Last year, he registered 247 rushing attempts, but we could see that number drop as the Patriots divvy up more carries among Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and pass-catching back James White.

RB Devonta Freeman Responds to Report About Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Interest

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    Running back Devonta Freeman doesn't have a shortage of suitors on the open market. While sorting out his options, he urged the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to contact him directly rather than negotiate through the media.

    Freeman's asking price poses an issue with Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, per Jon Ledyard of PewterReport.com.

    "He's asking for a lot of money and we don't have a lot of money," Arians said.

    Freeman made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016, but his production has dipped significantly over the last three terms. He's also missed 18 games because of injuries since 2017.

    Last season, with the Atlanta Falcons, Freeman logged 1,066 yards from scrimmage but averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry. Still only 28 years old, he should have a couple of optimal campaigns left in the tank.

    If Freeman drops his price, he could join Ronald Jones II, rookie third-rounder Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Dare Ogunbowale to form a solid backfield in Tampa Bay. The versatile tailback would likely become a solid component of the short passing game as well. He's hauled in 257 receptions for 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns for his career.

    With that said, Freeman seems prepared to wait for the best deal on the table. He may choose the most lucrative situation regardless of the team's chance to contend for a title.

Tennessee Titans Still "Really Like" WR Corey Davis

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Don't write off Corey Davis' future with the Tennessee Titans yet.

    According to Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official website, Tennessee remains fond of its No. 5 overall pick from the 2017 draft.

    "His future in Tennessee past 2020 depends on how he plays this season. But I can tell you coaches really like him. Sure, maybe he doesn't have the numbers a fifth overall pick might be expected to have, but he's a solid player who does a lot of things well, and is a willing blocker, which is critical on a team that likes to run the ball." 

    Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith spoke positively about Davis' production during the previous term and the wide receiver's outlook for the 2020 campaign, per Wyatt

    "Corey is a big part of our offense. And there were some huge explosive plays [last year] that Corey was the unsung hero to," Smith said.

    Unlike then-rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, Davis didn't experience a noticeable uptick in receiving numbers with quarterback Ryan Tannehill under center in place of Marcus Mariota.

    Davis caught six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in Tannehill's first start with the Titans, but he recorded just 57 yards or fewer without a touchdown in each of the last eight games.

    The Titans declined Davis' fifth-year option, so he's headed into a make-or-break season with a 2021 market value that also hinges on his 2020 performance.

    Davis will likely go into the upcoming campaign as the No. 2 wideout behind Brown and struggle to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a run-heavy offense that ranked 10th in rushing attempts during the previous campaign.

Las Vegas Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III Will Be Ready for Training Camp

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    Las Vegas Raiders fans held their collective breath when news broke about Henry Ruggs III's moving accident. The wide receiver's father provided details on the matter, per AL.com's Wesley Sinor.

    "He was trying to move a trailer or something—move furniture or something—and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something. … It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit," Henry Ruggs Jr. said.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter relayed overall positive news Thursday, stating Ruggs will participate in training camp whenever those activities start this summer. He needed stitches in his thigh but didn't suffer any muscular damage.

    The Raiders selected Ruggs with the No. 12 overall pick in this year's draft. He's expected to light a spark for an offense that went through a dry spell late in the 2019 season, scoring the second-fewest points (105) between Weeks 11 and 17.

    Ruggs isn't just a speedy wide receiver. He also runs a variety of routes and has reliable hands. Since 2018, the Alabama product only dropped three passes out of 123 targets, per Pro Football Focus.

    Opposing defenses must respect Ruggs' speed, though his ability to track the football and run after the catch will turn some routine plays into explosive gains anyway. With a full offseason, he could become one of the more productive rookie wideouts as the Raiders look for a lead threat to emerge at the position.

New York Jets Have No Interest in EDGE Jadeveon Clowney

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    You can cross the New York Jets off the list of potential landing spots for Jadeveon Clowney.

    The Jets need another pass-rusher within the front seven. Among the team's defensive linemen and linebackers, Neville Hewitt ranked second in sacks with three last year.

    Gang Green re-signed outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, but the defense has a question mark on the opposite side. According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets won't sign Clowney to fill that void.

    "While the Jets-Clowney speculation has lingered throughout the offseason, the truth is they have never had serious interest—and their position hasn't changed even with $11 million in cap relief from [Trumaine] Johnson," Cimini wrote.

    According to ESPN's John Clayton, Clowney dropped his contract demand from $22 million-24 million to about $17 million. That's still too much for a player coming off a three-sack campaign.

    While Clowney can seal the edge, stuff the run and wreak havoc on offensive lines in stretches, he's not worth his asking price. General manager Joe Douglas shouldn't take a desperate swing at a player with inconsistent sack production.

    Perhaps rookie third-rounder Jabari Zuniga, who registered 18.5 sacks at Florida, will provide some pressure near the pocket.

Logan Ryan Seen as Nickel Cornerback, Could Have Future at Safety

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    Logan Ryan patiently waits for a contract that meets his demands, though teams may hesitate to pay a high price because of the cornerback's projected role.

    According to Adam Caplan of Inside the Birds, most clubs view Logan as a nickelback, which lowers the 29-year-old's earning potential. He lined up primarily on the inside with the Tennessee Titans but also played outside.

    Currently, Kendall Fuller of the Washington Redskins is the highest-paid primary slot cornerback, averaging $10 million annually. Per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Ryan wants north of $10 million per year, which would make him a top-15 cornerback in earnings.

    Caplan spoke to someone from an AFC team's personnel department who thinks Ryan possesses the skill set to play safety.

    "A few of us during our early free-agency meetings discussed whether to sign him and move him to safety," the AFC team representative said. "You love his smarts, toughness and leadership...you just get concerned with putting him up against guys who can really run."

    Most recently, the New York Jets "believed" they would sign Ryan, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Gang Green has a need on the perimeter, though. Brian Poole will likely man the slot as he did last year.

    As Ryan weighs potential destinations, he may have to keep an open mind about his asking price and role in the secondary. Ultimately, the Jets seem like a solid fit if they're willing to use him on the outside.