Oakland has told interested clubs that they will not part with the tour-de-force edge pass rusher, whose holdout has extended to 27 days. But until the Raiders and Mack actually end their impasse … never say never.
Mack, scheduled to make $13.8 million on his fifth-year option, is looking to become the first non-quarterback to make $20 million per year. The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year will be worth every penny given his prodigious production in his first four seasons. Mack, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been a nightmare for years.
How ridiculously great is Mack, who’s in his prime at age 27?
Well, consider his “down year” in 2017: 10.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 55 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. He accounted for 31.7 percent of Oakland’s pressures.
Mack, believe it or not, is better than his absurd career numbers (40 1/2 sacks). He’s started every game of his career.
He’s a menace that would transform any defense. Your pass rush instantly becomes great the minute he steps on the field. He’s also a run-stopping freak.
The Jets, who have ranked in the bottom 5 in sacks in each of the past two seasons, are desperately looking to upgrade on the edge. The Daily News reported this week that Gang Green reached out to the Jaguars to gauge their interest level in trading mercurial defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
“Well, we don’t have the name guy,” Todd Bowles said of his current collection of edge pass rushers. “We don’t have the Lawrence Taylor, so to speak, but we have guys that work hard and are very tough at the point of attack. You don’t need a name guy. You just need a guy with production. And the production will make the name. Disrupting the quarterback is the big thing as well as setting the edge. We have certain guys that can do a lot of things right now. We’re mixing and matching to get a feel for what guys can and can’t do right now.”
None of those guys, frankly, can do what Mack can do.
He’s on an altogether different level. He’s a game-wrecker who single-handedly alters opponent’s game-plans. He strikes fear into quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
Mack, a three-time Pro Bowler, became the first player in NFL history to earn first-team All-Pro honors at two different positions (defensive end and outside linebacker) in 2016.
“Mack’s the best player coming off the edge in football,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said last week. “That’s our opinion. We’re determined to find a way to get him in here and get him a contract and get on with life.”
That’s evidently easier said than done.
The Raiders haven’t given any interested teams permission to discuss a new contract with Mack’s representatives in a potential trade scenario, according to sources.
The Jets, frankly, have the resources to make it happen given their available cap space now and relatively low 2019 cap commitments. The Raiders, however, haven’t reached the point where they’d entertain such a thought.
It would be an enormous cost – at least a first-rounder and another premium pick (first three rounds) or a first-rounder and a top-level starter – but the Jets are bent on not sitting on their hands if Oakland alters their current stance.
For those who believed that the Jets would be happy to tip-toe through this season before making a big splash in 2019, think again. This regime has been strategically aggressive since the end of last season.
The Raiders seemingly aren’t blinking in their stare-down with Mack. But if they do, the Jets have made it clear that they’ll be serious suitors for the best defensive player in the sport.
That mindset is exactly what the franchise needs right now. By Manish Mehta, Daily News’ Jets/NFL Columnist
Free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant and the Browns haven’t come anywhere close to agreeing to a contract, but it’s not because of a lack of effort on coach Hue Jackson’s part.
In the third episode of Hard Knocks, which aired Tuesday night on HBO, Jackson was shown giving Bryant a full-blown sales pitch Thursday as the former Dallas Cowboys three-time Pro Bowl selection visited Browns headquarters in Berea.
Late in the episode, Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s return to Cleveland is documented.
But first, here is the TV version of the exchange Bryant and Jackson had as they met in the coach’s office.
Jackson: “What are you looking for, Dez?”
Bryant: “I’m just looking for realness. That’s all.”
Jackson: “Well, Dez, I tell you this opportunity that’s sitting before you, to me, is kind of unique in a sense that we’re at a time where I think we’re about to [rise], at a time where you could help us get this organization back to where it rightfully should be. The last two years have been hell. I’ll be the first to tell you that. But it’s going to take guys like you who love to compete, who love to go in these big stadiums, it’s like, ‘We’re here, and we’re coming here to kick your ass.’ And that’s the kind of guys I’m looking for. I know you know [receiver] Jarvis Landry. Jarvis Landry is real.”
Bryant: “I love everything about him.”
Jackson: “Absolutely. He’s going to compete. As you know, a football team’s got to have enough guys that have that mentality and mindset, and then it flips. The whole culture flips. The owners, they’ve given these football players anything and everything. We haven’t given them back winning, and that’s the thing that’s got to turn now. In order to deliver, I need guys like you.”
Bryant: “Coach, it’s new to me. I’m just being honest. All this is new. Just being honest, the way you’re expressing yourself, the way you’re talking to me, we barely know each other, and I feel comfortable. That’s what these players want. I want to just be honest with you. I just want that realness ‘cause I’m going to give you who I am. I feel like I’m an easy person to talk to. I love learning. I want to know things. If there’s something I’m not doing right, I want to know those things ‘cause I feel like we all deserve that. We all deserve that opportunity.”
Jackson: “Twenty-one days, baby, Pittsburgh Steelers, right here at home, in front of the Dawg Pound [in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener]. It’ll be unbelievable. This will be the greatest turnaround in sports history.”
Bryant, 29, and his agent, Kim Miale, ended their visit with the Browns late Friday morning.
So what happened?
The amount of money Bryant wants is likely more than the Browns would be willing to invest in him at this point. He reportedly rejected a three-year, $21 million offer from the Baltimore Ravens in the spring, after the Cowboys cut him in April.
Although the return of Gordon lessens the Browns’ sense of urgency to sign a high-profile receiver like Bryant, it wouldn’t preclude them from doing so if the two sides were able to find middle ground. The franchise knows Gordon’s well-documented battle with drug and alcohol addiction is a day-to-day proposition, so his availability is always a question mark.
Gordon, 27, missed a little more than the first three weeks of training camp while receiving treatment in Florida connected to his struggle with addiction. He announced his return Saturday, when the Browns moved him from the reserve/did not report list to the active/non-football injury list.
Hard Knocks showed Gordon picking up luggage from baggage claim at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Friday.
As the Browns went through pregame warm-ups before their 19-17 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills on Friday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, Jackson informed offensive coordinator Todd Haley of Gordon’s arrival.
“The bird has landed,” Jackson said. “The bird is here. Not in [the stadium], though. Not in here, but the bird’s here.”
Haley replied, “Has he been working out?”
“Yeah,” Jackson said.
In a subsequent scene, Gordon stretched in the team’s field house while talking to director of strength and conditioning Larry Jackson.
“How you been doing, man?” Larry Jackson said.
Gordon replied, “Been all right.”
“Good, man,” Larry Jackson said. “Now we can start grinding.”
Gordon has been attending meetings and participating in conditioning since he reunited with the Browns, but he hasn’t been allowed to practice yet. He’ll need the league’s approval under the conditions of his substance-abuse program, and Hue Jackson has repeatedly emphasized the importance of Gordon being physically ready to resume action, too.
On Tuesday, after the final practice of camp, Jackson said he expects Gordon to return to practice “very soon.” The team’s next practice will be held Saturday, so Jackson’s comment points to Gordon returning to practice this weekend.
Jackson said Gordon won’t face the Philadelphia Eagles in the third preseason game Thursday, but “there’s a chance” he’ll play in the Aug. 30 exhibition finale against the Detroit Lions.
“It’d be great,” Jackson said. “If not, my real goal is can we get him up and running by the time we play Pittsburgh [in Week 1]? I think that’s really important.”
Rookie fourth-round draft pick Antonio Callaway ascended to the role of the starting “X” receiver while Gordon was gone during camp, but Callaway remained sidelined Tuesday with a groin injury and won’t play Thursday. So Rashard Higgins is expected to start opposite Landry, and rookie sixth-round selection Damion Ratley should play with the No. 1 offense, too.
But, of course, it’s the combination of Gordon and Landry, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, that the Browns are most eager to experience again.
“They’d be very special,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Tuesday. “Two different skill sets, but very talented at what they do. Josh is one of the faster guys in the league and one of the bigger receivers in the league, so he’s definitely a very talented receiver. You don’t really run across guys like that often on teams. Jarvis, you’ve seen him day in and day out how he competes and what he brings to the table, so we’re looking forward to having those guys on the field together. It puts defenses in a bind for sure.” By Nate Ulrich, Beacon Journal/Ohio.com
Was Dez Bryant trying to catch the New England Patriots’ attention? It’s an idea ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio posed Wednesday after the free agent wide receiver replied to an Instagram comment Tuesday by claiming Patriots quarterback Tom Brady always has been his favorite player. Florio can’t imagine New England signing Bryant, though.
The Patriots could use additional receiving depth, but Bryant is a polarizing figure. Here’s what Florio wrote: Here’s a likely real fact: The Patriots won’t want Bryant, for plenty of reasons. From a football standpoint, Bryant has spent eight seasons playing one position in one offense. Learning the Patriot Way on the fly would be a challenge that few could overcome. Still, the New England depth chart remains a work in progress. With an injury or two, they could at least have the conversation about whether Bryant could make sense.
Florio doubled down Wednesday while discussing a possible Bryant-Patriots connection with Peter King: I don’t know that Dez Bryan would work in New England. It reminds me a lot of when Chad Johnson went to New England; it stripped so much out of who you are as an individual that you just can’t function. I don’t know that if Dez Bryant is expected to go robotic that he’s going to be able to function in New England. King, meanwhile, doesn’t believe the scenario is that far-fetched. After all, says King, the Patriots rolled the dice on Randy Moss, which worked out pretty well despite New England not winning a Super Bowl during the Hall of Fame receiver’s tenure with the Pats. That said, King, like Florio, wonders just how much Bryant would help the Patriots, seeing as how the former Dallas Cowboys receiver turns 30 in November and is coming off a few down seasons.
“I think if the Patriots get out of this preseason game and have sincere doubts about their receiver corps, I wouldn’t put it past the Patriots to consider Dez Bryant,” King said. “But look at how Dez Bryant played the last three years, over the last couple of years. He hasn’t been a great player. He’s certainly, to me, a marginal addition to any team that would have him.” Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was released earlier this offseason by the Cowboys after eight seasons in Dallas. His last big season came in 2014, when he caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards with 16 touchdowns. By Ricky Doyle, NESN
Over the final two weeks of the NFL preseason, Julian Edelman plans to work as hard as possible on his conditioning, which he admitted was not up to snuff in training camp. And since he won’t be suiting up for the New England Patriots for the first month of the regular season, the veteran wide receiver also wants to do all he can to help those who will be filling in while he serves his four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. “I hope to get my conditioning better, just keeping the volume up,” Edelman said Wednesday ahead of Friday’s matchup preseason between the Patriots and Carolina Panthers. “I hope I can go out and contribute in other ways. Obviously, I won’t be here for the first four (games). Anything I can do to help the guys that are going to step in and be able to let them know what they need to know and little things, especially guys that are not as experienced. … “(I can help with) looks and verbiage. I’ve been in the system a little while, so if a guy is having difficulty with a read or an option or this or that, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.” With Edelman, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, set to be unavailable until October, wide receiver is a real area of concern for the Patriots as Week 1 approaches.
Kenny Britt on Wednesday became the third New England wideout to be released this summer — joining Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell — and of those who remain, only Chris Hogan has a history of production in the Patriots’ system. Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and special teamer Matthew Slater look like roster locks, leaving Eric Decker, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner battling for the final few roster spots at the position. Speaking before news of Britt’s release broke, Edelman said he has confidence in that group to hold down the fort until he returns. “We’ve got a lot of guys making a lot of plays, a lot of guys working hard and a lot of guys improving,” Edelman said. “And honestly, that’s all you can ask for. We’ve got a group in there that’s very capable — a lot of explosion, a lot of quickness, a lot of experience. I’m not a talent evaluator, not a coach, not a GM — you’d have to ask those guys about that — but I’m excited for (the other receivers) for their opportunity, and I’m definitely confident in them.” Tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back James White also should see plenty of targets from quarterback Tom Brady, who earned NFL MVP honors last season at age 40. After a quiet preseason opener, Edelman played 31 offensive snaps last Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles, catching four passes on five targets for 26 yards. By Zack Cox, NESN
Quarterback Eli Manning said Tuesday that the missed work, including last week’s preseason game, is concerning for a rookie, even one as talented as Barkley.
“Not concerned with Odell [Beckham], just because we’ve got years of experience and you get a lot of reps in practice; we’ve had game experience together,” Manning said of Beckham sitting out preseason tilts, via the New York Daily News. “Now Saquon, that’s different, just because he’s a rookie and missing some valuable time. So I know he’s getting mental reps. It’s different than practice reps; it’s different than game reps. Hopefully he can get back soon.”
Beckham sat out the first two preseason games and could skip the entire slate. Given his familiarity with Manning, it’s less of a concern.
Barkley has missed more than a week after tweaking his hamstring during an indoor practice on Aug. 13, and is in danger of sitting out New York’s third preseason game.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur said the team likes “the path he’s on” in terms of Barkley being ready for Week 1. Even with Manning lamenting his starting running back missing valuable reps, Big Blue won’t rush the No. 2 overall pick back early.
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