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Le'Veon Bell
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Bump and Run

NFL Countdown

by Ryan McDowell

If you follow me on Twitter (@RyanMc23 in case you don’t already) you may have seen my occasional tweets counting down the days until some important offseason events for the NFL. The anticipation for these happenings is building by the day and we continue to hear reports and rumors surrounding each. Here’s your updated countdown:

 

NFL Scouting Combine- 4 days

The annual gathering of NFL coaches, general managers and hopeful incoming rookies begins in less than a week and along with the typical testing and player interviews that always take place, Indianapolis just might play host to a blockbuster trade this year. The Steelers are expected to discuss trade options involving disgruntled WR Antonio Brown and with all key decision-makers for virtually every team crammed in one city for the week, it will be the perfect opportunity.

When it comes to the upcoming rookie class, the biggest pre-Combine news has centered around a pair of Oklahoma Sooners. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner QB Kyler Murray finally made his official decision and has opted for football over the Oakland A’s and baseball but he is still not expected to fully participate in the Combine. Murray is reportedly still considering participating in throwing drills, but after a recent awkward interview with Dan Patrick, Murray’s meetings with teams could be the most important part of his time in Indy. Murray’s teammate WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will also not be working out at the Combine after it was reported that the speedy playmaker underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc foot injury in early January. While the recovery will cost Brown his chance to show off at the Combine and his Pro Day, he is expected to be ready in time for training camp. Despite some concern about his size (5’10”, 170 pounds), Brown is routinely being mocked in the first round of the NFL Draft.

 

Franchise/Transition Tag Deadline- 11 days

The period for NFL teams to place the Franchise and/or Transition Tags on their own impending free agents opened earlier this week and spans the next week and a half. So far, no teams have announced any tags, though the Pittsburgh Steelers did make it clear they would not be using any tag in an effort to retain (or hold hostage) RB Le’Veon Bell. After sitting out a full season over a contract dispute, Bell is now set to finally enter free agency. 

Bell has been linked to the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, among others, but it remains to be seen if any team will give him the $30 million guaranteed he turned down from the Steelers. Not only will Bell suitors have to deal with his rich contract demands but they might also be getting more than they expected. According to New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta, “word on the street” is that Bell’s weight jumped from his playing weight of 225 pounds all the way up to 260 during his season away from the game. While Bell has time to work his way back into shape, this is just another issue on Bell’s sketchy resume. For the record, Bell’s trainer spoke out against the report, calling it laughable.

Back to the tags, while Bell won’t be dealing with another season with his team, defenders Dee Ford of Kansas City, Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and Houston LB Jadeveon Clowney are all considered likely to be tagged. The Cowboys are hoping to avoid placing the tag on Lawrence, who drew the designation a year ago and would reportedly not sign the deal if tendered again.

 

NFL Free Agency- 18 days

Baltimore DB Tavon Young was still a year away from entering free agency but the Ravens wasted little time in locking him up, signing Young to a three-year, $$25.8 million extension. Vikings WR Adam Thielen is another player who is locked into his 2019 status but is already negotiating a new deal with his team. 

One player not willing to discuss a contract is injured Broncos veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders made it clear that he would not be willing to restructure his contract that is set to pay him over $10 million in 2019. The Broncos could still part ways with Sanders, though his contract does include nearly $7 million guaranteed for injury. 

Veteran RB Mark Ingram is a free agent and while many fantasy players might be hoping he remains in New Orleans, Ingram recently suggested he is “not afraid to bet on” himself. Outside of Bell, Ingram might be the best back on the market, though there has been little demand for free agent runners in recent years.

Another veteran running back who is expected to hit the market is Jaguars RB Carlos Hyde. After giving up a fifth-round pick to acquire Hyde from the Browns, he played sparingly and is now expected to be released. There won’t be much demand for Hyde.

Another player likely to hit the free agent streets is perennial disappointment WR DeVante Parker. A Dolphins beat writer recently called Parker “all but gone” from the team. Parker, the former first-rounder from Louisville, could use a fresh start and is set to get one. The wide receiver class is downright pathetic and that should result in multiple teams ready to take a shot on rescuing Parker’s career.

Finally, one player who will avoid the free agency frenzy is veteran TE Charles Clay. Soon after he was released by the Buffalo Bills, Clay landed a job with the Arizona Cardinals, agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million pact.

 

Other NFL News

One thing we don’t have a clear timeline on is the future of Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who is considering retiring following a disappointing individual season, his worst as a pro. Gronk’s agent Drew Rosenhaus did say a decision would come “in the next couple of weeks.”

Giants WR Odell Beckham’s name has surfaced recently in trade rumors and a pair of teams have emerged, the Patriots and 49ers. Although these are not necessarily landing spots for Beckham, if the Giants were to deal him, but both have reportedly been very interested and aggressive in trying to acquire Beckham’s services.