The month of June has always been a busy one in the NFL. All 32 teams are on the practice fields, working toward the upcoming season. Quarterbacks are developing timing with their receivers. Linemen are working on their footwork and fundamentals. Rookies are figuring out what the heck is going on.
But the most important developments this month are taking place away from the field. June is contract season in the NFL, and while the Patriots may not be making much progress with the 12 starters entering the final year of their deals, several high-profile players around the league are dominating the news cycle with their contract negotiations.
Let’s take a look at the players in line for new deals and how things stand:
■ The biggest contract negotiation of the offseason, and also perhaps the quietest, is the one between the Colts and their 26-year-old franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and set to make $16.155 million this year. Everyone knows that Luck isn’t going anywhere, and Colts owner Jim Irsay acknowledged last week that the sides are working hard and hope to have a deal consummated before the start of training camp in late July, but there’s been surprisingly little buzz about Luck and the record-breaking contract he almost certainly will sign.
Luck is coming off a terrible, injury-plagued season, but it won’t matter. He’s still the top young quarterback in the game and a couple of years away from being in the prime of his career. NFL teams are flush with cash thanks to the bottomless TV deals, and Luck should break several current contract marks — Joe Flacco’s $22.13 million yearly average salary, Philip Rivers’s and Eli Manning’s $65 million in overall guarantees, and Russell Wilson’s $70.6 million in three-year new money.
Most likely, Luck will become the first $25 million-per-year man in the NFL. If Luck plays out his contract this year then gets the franchise tag twice, he would make about $75 million over three seasons, which should be the baseline for negotiations. There was talk of Luck signing a career-defining, 10-year contract worth more than $200 million, but instead expect Luck to sign no more than a four-year deal worth at least $100 million. That way, he can become a free agent again when he’s 30 and in the middle of his prime.
■ Another defining contract negotiation is taking place in Denver, but isn’t nearly as amicable as the one in Indianapolis. Broncos pass rusher Von Miller wants to become the highest-paid defensive player in the league (and probably deserves it), but his franchise tag of $14.129 million for 2016 is depressing Miller’s negotiating leverage and making things complicated.
Last week, reports emerged that a deadline had passed and the Broncos were cutting off talks, but that’s just a negotiating tactic. The important date is July 15, the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal.
The Broncos are offering $114.5 million over six years, which would make Miller the highest-paid non-quarterback in terms of total value and in average per year (Ndamukong Suh currently holds both with his six-year, $114.375 million contract). But the holdup between the sides is the overall guarantee and the three-year cash flow, since the back ends of NFL contracts are almost never honored.
Suh’s contract pays him $60 million over three years. Miller reportedly wants at least $70 million. He’ll likely have to come down from that number, and anything over $60 million for the first three years should get the deal done. But neither side has much motivation to concede until July 15.
■ Several other franchise-tagged players will likely sign contract extensions on or around July 15. Last year, four of the five franchise players signed new deals right before the deadline, and the fifth was Jason Pierre-Paul, whose hand injury forced the Giants to take their long-term deal off the table.
Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn already signed his extension, a five-year, $65 million deal. Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker are all strong candidates for July contract extensions, as well.
There have been rumors of the Jets looking to trade Wilkerson instead of giving him a long-term deal, but a new contract would lower Wilkerson’s massive $15.7 million salary cap number, and the savings could be used to get Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract. The Jets only have $3.425 million in cap space, complicating matters with Fitzpatrick.
■ And several players from the 2013 draft are looking to re-up before entering the final year of their contracts.
Most notably, Panthers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short, a former second-round pick who has outperformed first-round pick Star Lotulelei from the same draft, has skipped most of the Panthers’ voluntary offseason program as his contract negotiations have stalled. He’s entering the final year of his four-year, $4.6 million rookie contract and is scheduled to make a little more than $1 million this year.
The Chargers on Friday did finalize an extension with Keenan Allen, and they were smart to lock him up before he reached unrestricted free agency next year. A former third-round pick who was entering the final year of a four-year, $3.78 million deal (and was still on the board when the Patriots took Aaron Dobson in the second round), Allen has 215 catches and 16 touchdowns in his first three seasons and was on pace for 134 catches and 1,450 yards when he suffered a lacerated kidney last year. Allen, who is only 24 years old, got a four-year extension that according to NFL.com is worth $45 million (he can earn a maximum of $49 million with incentives), including $20 million fully guaranteed, along with a $9.5 million signing bonus.
Broncos have had some distractions
If it feels like we can’t go a week without the Broncos making national news, it’s because it’s mostly true. The defending Super Bowl champions have had quite the offseason, filled with drama and distractions.
First there were a couple of weeks of the will-he-or-won’t-he drama of Peyton Manning’s retirement in March. Shortly thereafter, the Broncos had a messy contract negotiation with Brock Osweiler that ended in divorce — either Osweiler spurned the Broncos’ offer or the Broncos never made a serious effort to retain him, depending on whom you believe.
Now, not only is Von Miller unhappy with his contract negotiations, their other star pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware, is sitting out offseason workouts with a back injury.
The Broncos made the biggest splash of draft night, trading up to No. 26 to draft Paxton Lynch as their next franchise quarterback. They also have enjoyed the spoils of winning a championship — an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” for Miller, which mostly kept him away from offseason workouts, and a trip to the White House for the team last week.
And now the Broncos have a potentially messy situation with cornerback Aqib Talib, who was shot in the right leg in Dallas early last Sunday morning. Talib is OK, but he will miss the rest of offseason practices, and the details of the incident are still in question. Talib may or may not have shot himself, and the incident is being investigated by Dallas police. Talib could face one felony and two misdemeanor charges related to carrying a weapon in public without a license, carrying a weapon while intoxicated, and discharging a weapon in public.
Coach Gary Kubiak is trying to downplay the recent spate of bad news.
“I think if you’re in this league and you’re in this business, you’re going to deal with distractions,’’ Kubiak said via 9News in Denver. “That’s part of it. I think the key is that you deal with them openly and honestly with your players, but you keep working. You keep pushing forward and don’t let things drag you down.”
An idea that’s hard not to like
The Cardinals are taking the “Hard Knocks” concept a step further, appearing in an eight-episode series called “All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals,” that provides a behind-the-scenes (if not whitewashed) look at their 2015 season. The series will air on Amazon Prime Video and debuts July 1.
Of course, any mention of the Patriots doing a similar type of reality show — “Hard Knocks” or otherwise — is instantly met with a roll of the eyes. Of course the highly protective, super-secretive Patriots would never allow that type of access to their team, right?
NFL Films and “Hard Knocks” producer Ken Rodgers, whose crew followed Bill Belichick around for the 2009 season for the two-part “A Football Life” series, said last week on SiriusXM that he wouldn’t be shocked if Belichick chose to do “Hard Knocks” one day.
“Coach Belichick is a huge fan of Steve Sabol and his legacy and NFL Films,” Rodgers said. “A lot of people say, ‘Well, Bill would never do this.’ Coach allowed me to follow him in 2009 when he became the only coach in NFL history at that time to wear a microphone during every single game of a season. So he is totally great with us.
“I would love to convince them, but it’s got to be the right situation for him and for us, where that urgency exists and the drive to get somewhere is different than the year before. I look forward to the day that they’re on.”
Good time for some fun
It’s easy to forget, but these 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound behemoths running around the field are still just 22-year-olds, and even most of the veterans are kids at heart. But we were reminded of that last week when a couple of teams took time out of minicamp for some good old-fashioned fun.
The Rams took their entire rookie class (drafted and undrafted) on a Hollywood bus tour on Thursday. Included were stops to the coffee shop from the TV show “Friends,” a set from the “Lord of the Rings” movies, playing Harry Potter in front of a green screen, and visiting a few more Los Angeles landmarks along the way.
And in New Orleans, coach Sean Payton canceled Wednesday’s practice and instead took the Saints to NOLA Motorsports Park for some go-karting. One problem, though — the racing was delayed because one of the busses broke down on the way there.
Wiedmeier will be missed
The NFL suffered a loss last week with the death of longtime Dolphins and Browns executive Bryan Wiedmeier, 56, after a long battle with brain cancer. Wiedmeier worked up the ladder with the Dolphins from 1981-2009, rising to assistant GM and then president and chief operating officer and overseeing the last glory years. Wiedmeier then joined the Browns in 2010 as executive vice president of business operations.
Wiedmeier and I barely crossed paths when I was a young reporter in South Florida, yet he always stopped to say hello when I ran into him at league functions, and reached out to congratulate me when I got hired by the Globe in 2013. Wiedmeier was given 15 months to live when diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer in 2012, yet he lived for nearly four years. Prayers go out to his wife, Mary, and their five children.
Patriots who want to emulate their coach will be disappointed this season. The NFL tweaked a rule for 2016 that will not allow players to wear hooded sweatshirts under their uniforms. The rule is unofficially dubbed the “James Jones Rule” after the Packers receiver wore a hoodie in a November game against Minnesota . . . According to NFL Players Association records, Lions rookie defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, who had hoped to go in the first round but fell to the second, quietly fired agents Jimmy Sexton and Todd France on May 2, the Monday after the draft, and signed with Erik Burkhardt and Sean Kiernan. It’s not the agents’ fault that Robinson fell in the draft, but it’s possible they signed him with a promise of going in the first round . . . Life isn’t fair in the NFL, part 354: Not only will Patriots tight end Mike Williams miss the 2016 season with a torn ACL suffered in a meaningless, noncontact practice in June, but the injury will cost him financially, as well. Williams, like many fringe players hoping to stick in the NFL, has a “split salary” in his contract — instead of making $525,000 this year, Williams will now make $348,000 once he clears waivers and reverts to the Patriots’ injured reserve. He’s also set to be a free agent after this season, and the injury does nothing to help his value . . . Can’t help but chuckle at the lawsuit filed last week in New York federal district court — the NHL’s very own version of Deflategate. Once again, the central issue revolves around how much latitude the commissioner has to punish players as granted by the collective bargaining agreement. Except this case is backward. This time, it’s the league office arguing that an arbitrator “applied his own brand of industrial justice” by cutting Dennis Wideman’s suspension in half and ignoring commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision to uphold the full 20-game suspension. Did Bettman’s decision take its essence from the CBA? Did the arbitrator overstep his bounds? Hockey writers have no idea what they’re in for.
The Jaguars rewarded Allen Hurns with a four-year, $40 million extension after the wide receiver put up stellar numbers in his first two seasons. The University of Miami product set the record for most receiving yards by an undrafted player over his first two seasons since the merger. The players he surpassed: