The Cardinals drafted perhaps the league’s next star quarterback in Kyler Murray, the Giants, Redskins, and Broncos found their next quarterbacks, and every team restocked their roster with young players and a new sense of optimism.
But the two most interesting stories of draft weekend revolved around veteran players already in the league. The Josh Rosen saga finally reached its conclusion Friday night when the Dolphins acquired him from the Cardinals for second- and fifth-round picks. But the Tyreek Hill situation with the Chiefs still hung in the balance on Saturday morning, with the Chiefs still not making a final decision on their star receiver despite an audio recording released on Thursday night that alleges that Hill broke the arm of his 3-year-old son.
Let’s start with Rosen. After passing on Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock in the first round, the Dolphins landed their young QB on Friday, trading the 62nd pick and a fifth-rounder in 2020 to Arizona for Rosen.
The Cardinals were desperate to dump Rosen after drafting Murray, and the Dolphins pounced. While they gave up a late second-rounder for him, the Dolphins first swung a trade with New Orleans to pick up an extra second-rounder for next year. And considering that Rosen is only owed about $6 million over the next three years — with no dead salary-cap money, either — this was a low-cost, low-risk move for the Dolphins that is hard to view as anything other than a home run.
Interestingly, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said in the past that in 2018, the Dolphins would only have drafted Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen with the 11th pick, not Rosen.
“I wouldn’t say we didn’t like Rosen,” Grier said. “He just wasn’t in those top five or six guys we were comfortable taking at pick 11.”
But for a 2 and a 5, and with a cheap contract? Music to Grier’s ears.
At best, the Dolphins just got their franchise quarterback for pennies on the dollar. The Cardinals traded first-, third-, and fifth-round picks last year to move up and get Rosen with the 10th pick. Rosen is only 22 years old, has a year of NFL experience under his belt, and if he doesn’t work out, the Dolphins won’t be tied to him. They can easily draft another quarterback in the first round next year.
“He was always a guy that’s had a ton of talent,” Grier said. “I think what everyone always liked about him was how cerebral he was, as well.”
Cardinals GM Steve Keim defended his team’s handling of Rosen. Keim used the 62nd pick on UMass receiver Andy Isabella, and at least recouped the fifth-rounder he traded last year to move up and get Rosen.
But the Cardinals are pretending that the 2018 season didn’t happen, getting rid of Rosen and coach Steve Wilks after just one season each.
“I don’t know that it was that he didn’t work out,” Keim said Friday of Rosen. “I would say, obviously, he was put in a tough situation last year. But I think, really, when you come down to the bottom line, we had an opportunity to find a dynamic player that we think can be special.”
The Hill situation is much more somber, and troubling. Somehow, Hill was still on the Chiefs’ roster as of Saturday morning, even though an audio recording was released on Thursday in which Hill’s fiancée alleges that Hill was responsible for breaking the arm of their 3-year-old son. Local authorities had announced on Wednesday that they wouldn’t be filing criminal charges against Hill and his fiancée but reopened the case on Friday after the audio was released.
“We were deeply disturbed and concerned by what we heard,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach said in a statement on Friday.
But not disturbed or concerned enough to do anything substantive. Veach said that Hill won’t be allowed to participate in offseason workouts for now, but the Chiefs should have cut bait by now, superstar or not.
Hill already was on his second chance — the only reason he was available to the Chiefs in the 2016 fifth round was because Hill was kicked out of college for hitting his pregnant girlfriend. The Chiefs have been taking chances on questionable players for the past few years, and it has come back to bite them, both with Hill and Kareem Hunt, who has been released and is now with the Browns.
The Chiefs seemed perfectly content to keep Hunt until a video surfaced of him hitting a woman. And it seems like they’re doing everything they can to find a way to keep Hill.
But the pressure on the Chiefs will continue to mount, and Hill’s release seems like an inevitability. The Chiefs prepared for this outcome by trading up in the second round to take Georgia’s Mecole Hardman, a small, speedy receiver who excels as a kick returner.
But if the Chiefs aren’t going to do anything about Hill, commissioner Roger Goodell needs to step in and do it for them. The audio recording is heinous enough that Hill needs to be released, and the NFL needs to suspend Hill for a long time, possibly for life.
Hill may be an electric player, but he has lost his right to play in the NFL. And Goodell needs to save the teams from themselves, because if the Chiefs don’t try to keep Hill around, another team will find an excuse to sign him.
TIME FOR A MAKEOVER
Chiefs’ defense will have new look
Give the Chiefs credit for one thing — they’re not simply content with last season’s appearance in the AFC Championship game. A defense that was the team’s Achilles’ heel all season — ranked 24th in points allowed and 31st in yards — has gotten a serious makeover since January.
There was a change at the top, with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton replaced by Steve Spagnuolo. But the Chiefs have also swapped out five starters from the AFC Championship game loss to the Patriots.
Out: Safety Eric Berry, pass rusher Justin Houston, pass rusher Dee Ford, cornerback Steve Nelson, and defensive end Allen Bailey.
In: Safety Tyrann Mathieu, linebacker Alex Okafor, pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, cornerback Bashaud Breeland, and the most recent addition, pass rusher Frank Clark, who was acquired in a trade with Seattle this past week and subsequently given a five-year, $104 million contract.
Of course, some of the moves are made because the team is transitioning from a 3-4 under Sutton to a 4-3 under Spagnuolo. But the Chiefs certainly made two significant upgrades — Clark is a much more dominant pass rusher than Ford or Houston, while Mathieu is younger and more durable than Berry.
The Clark move was interesting on two levels, however. One, that the Chiefs were willing to give a massive contract extension not to one of their homegrown players but to someone they didn’t know much about before acquiring him.
Two, it is interesting to see the Chiefs make a major investment in Clark given his history — he was dismissed from the Michigan football team in 2014 after being arrested for domestic violence. Clark has been a model citizen in four NFL seasons by all accounts, but one would think that the Chiefs would be scared off by someone with a checkered past given their recent headaches with Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill. Apparently not.
Seattle gets bang for its buck in deal
The Seahawks knew they weren’t going to keep Frank Clark for the long term but handled his situation shrewdly. They placed the franchise tag on him in March, maintaining his rights, then got a great haul in a trade — the Chiefs’ 2019 first-round pick (29th), a 2020 second-round pick, and a swap of 2019 third-rounders.
The Chiefs did the same thing with Ford before trading him to the 49ers. They bought some time with the franchise tag, then traded him for a 2020 second-round pick.
The Chiefs’ haul for Ford doesn’t seem like much, but they made out better than the Patriots did with Trey Flowers. The Patriots let him leave via free agency for Detroit, and all they’ll get is a compensatory draft pick in 2020 (most likely a third-rounder).
By using the franchise tag, the Seahawks got a draft haul, and the Chiefs got a second-round pick instead of a late third. The Patriots have done the tag-and-trade before with Matt Cassel, and perhaps didn’t use the franchise tag this time because they were in a shaky salary cap situation entering the 2019 league year. But that’s not a good excuse, either. The Patriots easily could have done more before the season to create more cap space.
The bottom line is the Patriots didn’t manage the Flowers asset as well as they could have.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Beckham can’t hide in Cleveland
Odell Beckham wanted out of New York and the scrutiny that comes with playing in the country’s largest media market. But just a few weeks into his Browns tenure, he might be figuring out that the spotlight is even brighter in a smaller city such as Cleveland.
Beckham was present for the start of the Browns’ offseason workouts earlier this month but has since split town and hasn’t been participating in the voluntary workouts since. It led to a column from ESPN Cleveland writer Tony Grossi this past week headlined “Hey Odell: “Where are you?”
Beckham responded on Twitter, “Training! Thanks for your concerns!”
Beckham is certainly entitled to skip the voluntary workouts, and he’s not missing out on much now. The first few weeks are conditioning drills only, and there is plenty of time before the season starts for Beckham to get in his work with Baker Mayfield.
But if Beckham thinks Cleveland is going to give him a free pass, he is sorely mistaken. Beckham is supposedly the final piece to put the Browns over the top, and the expectations and scrutiny will be massive this year.
Browns GM John Dorsey was diplomatic when asked about Beckham, but it’s easy to tell that he would rather Beckham be present.
“Where I stand is that I think any time that you have, as an organization, you have a first-year coaching staff and you are installing new offenses and new defenses, it is good to be here,” he said. “But let’s remember, the CBA created this to where it is a voluntary situation. I think he’s an experienced enough player that he will understand what he has to do to put himself in the best position and put this team in the best position.’’
Fifth-year options picked up aplenty
The first round of the NFL Draft is always littered with busts, but the teams that picked in the top half of the 2016 draft are certainly happy with their picks.
The deadline to trigger the fifth-year option on 2016 first-rounders is May 3, and most of the top picks are getting retained by their teams.
Among those who have already had their options picked up, which are guaranteed for injury only until next March, at which point they become fully guaranteed: No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, No. 3 Joey Bosa, No. 4 Ezekiel Elliott, No. 5 Jalen Ramsey, No. 6 Ronnie Stanley, No. 7 DeForest Buckner, No. 11 Vernon Hargreaves, No. 12 Sheldon Rankins, No. 13 Laremy Tunsil, No. 17 Keanu Neal, and No. 24 William Jackson.
That’s six out of the top 10 picks that already have been picked up. And No. 2 Carson Wentz, No. 8 Jack Conklin, and No. 9 Leonard Floyd all are likely to get triggered, as well.
The only top-10 pick in question is No. 10 Eli Apple — the Giants already dumped him in a trade, but the Saints still could pick up the option.
That’s an impressive hit rate for the 2016 draft — not all of those players will ultimately get extended by their original teams, but there were no abject busts in the top 10 picks, either, which is rare.
The only real busts from 2016 were No. 15 Corey Coleman, No. 20 Darron Lee, No. 23 Laquon Treadwell, and No. 26 Paxton Lynch.
The Patriots didn’t have a first-round pick that year because of Deflategate.
When the Jaguars began offseason workouts two weeks ago, executive vice president Tom Coughlin expressed dismay that Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith were the only players not to attend the voluntary workouts. “We’re close to 100 percent attendance — and quite frankly all of our players should be here,” he said. Asked about their absences again this past week, Coughlin said, “There’s no need for me to speak further on that.” Translation: “The NFL league office told me to cut it out.” The CBA expressly prohibits teams from pressuring players to attend the voluntary workouts, and sure enough, the NFL Network reported this past week that the league sent Coughlin a warning letter reminding him as such. If Coughlin makes similar comments in the future, it could lead to a fine or a loss of offseason workout days . . . The Saints opened their offseason program a week later than every other team, and coach Sean Payton said it was because he wanted to give his players some extra time to relax after a long season, which ended in late January with a loss in the NFC Championship game. He should try working for the Patriots, who routinely work two weeks later into February, yet still don’t seem to have a hard time coming back to work in mid-April . . . For the third time in five years, Tom Brady led all NFL players in officially licensed merchandise sales, per the NFL Players Association. Trailing Brady were Dak Prescott, Wentz, Elliott, and Patrick Mahomes . . . Stephen Gostkowski’s new two-year, $8.5 million deal made him the NFL’s highest-paid kicker on an average salary basis (tied with Graham Gano), but that number was surpassed this past week by Justin Tucker, who got a four-year extension worth $50 million from the Ravens. Tucker is the only qualifying kicker in NFL history to make at least 90 percent of his career field goals. Tucker has made 90.1 percent over seven NFL seasons, followed by Robbie Gould (87.7 percent) and Gostkowski (87.4 percent) . . . Sending prayers and good luck to Matthew Stafford and his wife, Kelly, who recently underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. She was released from the hospital this past week but returned on Thursday after experiencing massive headaches. Stafford was back participating in workouts with his Lions teammates but has the blessing of the organization to do whatever he needs for his wife this offseason.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.