THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — So much is different about the Los Angeles Rams these days. They’re coming off their first playoff appearance in 13 years, with a star-studded roster that now rivals any in the NFL, and the expectations are greater than they have been in more than a decade. The city is buzzing, the players are excited.
But one key similarity remains: Aaron Donald is absent.
Donald didn’t attend the start of the Rams’ offseason program on Monday, as was the case last spring. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still looking for a new contract, one that would make him one of the game’s highest-paid players. Now Donald is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, with no interest in showing up without a more lucrative deal.
“What I think we feel good about is the dialogue that has existed,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after his team’s workout. “We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal. With respect to Aaron, we feel really good about where we’re at with that dialogue. This is a voluntary offseason program. You know he’s a guy that’s going to work hard on his off time, and that’s kind of where we’re at. We feel good about everything that’s going on with that.”
Donald, who remains in Pittsburgh, is set to make $6.89 million in what constitutes the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Rams can then keep him for up to three additional years with the franchise tag, but they have expressed a desire to sign Donald long term dating back to last year’s scouting combine.
At this year’s combine, Rams general manager Les Snead said he and Donald’s CAA-based representatives “came up with a nice timeline” for negotiations, a process that might pick up after the draft. The Rams have since taken up almost all of their cap space by adding cornerback Aqib Talib, interior lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But Snead recently said that “none of it affects Aaron.”
Signing Donald to a long-term deal might actually give the Rams more space under this year’s salary cap, because the signing bonus is prorated for the life of the contract and would allow them to lower his 2018 base salary.
The Rams and Donald might be at a better place now, which might be evidenced by their exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Donald’s hometown for their “Behind The Grind” documentary series. Donald likes playing for McVay and is excited about the direction of the team. The Rams, meanwhile, would be more willing to pay Donald now because he’s closer to free agency.
“I think the best thing that you have going is now there’s been a year of working together,” McVay said. “There’s a rapport; there’s a relationship that’s been established, and we’re in constant dialogue and communication. When this happened last year, we weren’t really involved in much communication between myself and Aaron. I think you feel good about at least knowing where he’s at.”
Locking Donald up may require at least $80 million guaranteed and an average yearly salary of more than $20 million.
Donald, Cooks and safety Lamarcus Joyner, who signed his franchise tag prior to Monday’s workout, can all be unrestricted free agents next offseason. The Rams would ideally sign all of them to long-term deals, though they face a July 16 deadline with Joyner.
Next year, their star running back, Todd Gurley, will be on the last year of his rookie contract, and the Rams might have to seriously consider a long-term deal for him, too. Gurley, represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, is now in the same situation Donald was in last year. But he didn’t give much thought to staying away from the team.
Asked if he would like to start contract negotiations now, Gurley smiled wide.
“I think anyone would love to talk about contract situations.”
Offseason workouts are voluntary under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players can only be fined for skipping the mandatory veteran minicamp, which for the Rams takes place June 12 to 14. Donald showed up to last year’s minicamp, but didn’t participate in any of the team activities. He then skipped all of training camp and the preseason schedule, staying away from the team until the day before the season opener.
Donald now has a much better feel for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, but his absence keeps the team from figuring out how Donald, Suh and Michael Brockers will work together on the same defensive line.
“I mean, we’ve dealt with it before, and we also know that it’s a business,” Brockers said. “You have the best defensive tackle in the league right now going through contract situations. I’ll kind of just leave it at that. I don’t really want to talk about if he’s here, if he’s not here. We obviously know that he’s putting in the work to get back in shape.”
Why Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn’t draft Ben Roethlisberger’s successor – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have dozens of possibilities for their first few draft picks, depending on how their board plays out. They’ve ranked their favorites and will hope one falls to them at No. 28 overall.
Yes, the buzz about the team’s affinity for quarterbacks such as Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is legitimate. But the Steelers typically do the sensible thing early in the NFL draft. They go for the help. Consider these positional picks in the first rounds from 2009-17: defensive end, center, defensive end, guard, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback, outside linebacker.
They don’t take a ton of chances.
That’s in part why the case for not selecting a quarterback high in this year’s draft is relatively easy to make.
The quarterback would sit too long: Ben Roethlisberger‘s informal three-year commitment helps the Steelers’ long-range planning but also comes with the promise of solid play at the game’s most important position. Roethlisberger was heating up late last season and brings momentum to 2018. At 36, he’s showing no tangible signs of slowing, and at least three quarterbacks older than him (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers) aren’t slowing much, either. The offense is built around Roethlisberger staying upright, and he has been pretty healthy for much of the past two seasons.
With backup quarterbacks getting minimal reps in practices, a top pick might watch his clipboard collect dust until he loses value or approaches free agency without much of a résumé.
Too many needs elsewhere: Pittsburgh’s roster is one of the most complete in the NFL, but several areas could use a playmaking boost. The Steelers’ best cornerback (Joe Haden) is entering his ninth NFL season. The addition of safety Morgan Burnett is more of a short-term solution, and the Steelers just brought in four safeties for pre-draft visits. Ryan Shazier‘s absence leaves a sizable hole at inside linebacker that Jon Bostic can’t fill alone. The offensive line, though stout, doesn’t have a starter younger than 28.
The Steelers’ offense might be well-stocked positionally, but Pittsburgh faces a different kind of “need” here: It’s necessary to surround Roethlisberger with appropriate talent. The Steelers have a chance with Big Ben in every game (like in 2016, when the Steelers went to the AFC title game with the Eli Rogers/Sammie Coates/Cobi Hamilton combination at No. 2 receiver), but the offense flows better when the playmaker spots are consistently replenished. And with Martavis Bryant a free agent in 2019, receiver is very much an option in this draft.
No reason to give up on Josh Dobbs: The Steelers saw Landry Jones transition from struggling practice player to capable NFL backup, but he needed a few years to get there. Dobbs, last year’s fourth-round pick, has enough ability to watch him develop for another year or two. He might not be the long-term answer at starting quarterback, but the team will likely give him the chance to prove otherwise behind the scenes.
Some teams believe in drafting a signal-caller every year to magnify the game’s most important decision: picking your quarterback. The Steelers might be better off drafting one every other year or longer.
2019 or 2020 makes most sense: The Patriots showed the difficulty of stashing a talented quarterback while the starter keeps performing well. They parted with Jimmy Garoppolo without a succession plan in place.
Roethlisberger will be 38 by the 2020 draft, so the late 30s might be the ideal time to cash in with a newly groomed starter. The Steelers can re-sign Roethlisberger for a few more years (his deal is up in 2020) and give an eventual replacement around two years to prep for the job.
To trade or not to trade: Denver Broncos will face draft decision – Denver Broncos Blog
The perfect trade storm is brewing, as multiple quarterbacks sit at the top of draft boards around the league with quarterback-starved teams chasing them. There is also a team — the Cleveland Browns — with two picks in the draft’s top four.
There are also blue-chip players who aren’t quarterbacks — such as Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward — who could entice teams to move up because they might just be the four best players in the draft.
And that is the rub for Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway. He signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal last month and has announced, rather emphatically, that Keenum is the team’s starting quarterback for 2018 and is exactly the kind of player he wants.
So, to select a quarterback at No. 5 would really be selecting a player for 2019 and beyond. And that fact could entice a team picking later in the draft that wants a quarterback to see where Elway stands and try to move into Denver’s spot.
But to move out would mean Elway is also likely passing on a chance at one of the draft’s best players. Consider if the Broncos had moved down the last time they picked in the top five — at No. 2 in 2011 — Von Miller would have 83.5 sacks for somebody else.
For his part, Elway has said: “We look at everything. … We go through all of the scenarios, who we think might be there and who we like. It’s all part of the preparation, to get in position to know the guys we want to come away with in the draft. Because it could fall a lot of different ways.”
In his previous seven drafts in his current job, Elway has decided to make trades in the first round in three, including 2012, when he traded twice in the opening round. The Broncos have gotten somewhat mixed results for those deals.
In 2016, the Broncos were coming off a Super Bowl win and traded the last pick of the first round (No. 31) and a third-round pick to Seattle to move up to No. 26 and select quarterback Paxton Lynch. When the Broncos made the deal, the Dallas Cowboys were trying to get in position to select Lynch, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The Broncos also believed at least one other team had interest in selecting Lynch. However, Lynch has lost back-to-back training-camp battles to Trevor Siemian, has started four games and is Keenum’s backup if the Broncos don’t add another quarterback.
In 2015, the Broncos traded guard Manny Ramirez, swapped first-round picks and sent two other picks to the Detroit Lions (a fifth-round pick in 2015 and a fifth-round pick in 2016) to move up from No. 28 to No. 23 and select outside linebacker Shane Ray.
Ray certainly fit the profile as “best player available” at the time — he was coming off a season as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year for Missouri. But he had seen his stock dip just days before the draft. Ray had been cited for marijuana possession after a traffic stop.
Ray wasn’t detained by police, and they determined he was not impaired, but the incident influenced some teams. Ray is now a starter at outside linebacker and had eight sacks in 2016 to go with one sack least season, when he finished the season on injured reserve after three surgeries on his wrist.
In 2012, the year the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in free agency, Elway traded down twice and eventually out of the first round entirely. The Broncos moved from No. 28 to No. 31 and added an extra pick (a fourth-rounder), then traded the No. 31 pick to Tampa Bay.
In that second round they selected defensive end Derek Wolfe at No. 36. Wolfe, who is coming off neck surgery, has been a mainstay in the defensive line in his six seasons. Injuries have had an impact on his playing time — he hasn’t started 16 games since 2014 — but he has been a front-line player in the team’s defense.
“You always listen [during the draft], you always get calls, you always make calls, you’re trying to make the best moves for the Denver Broncos,” Elway has said. “The bottom line is you want to get those players you really want.”
If Bills stay put at No. 12, who do they draft? – Buffalo Bills Blog
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Since trading left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals to rise from No. 21 to No. 12 in the first round of next week’s NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills have been widely considered in the market to move up further to select a quarterback.
General manager Brandon Beane, as he has done since January, continued Tuesday to pump the brakes on the idea Buffalo must make another trade up.
“There’s a lot of good players in this draft and that was the big thing from moving from 21 to 12,” he said. “The natural assumption, I get it, is [that] they’re moving up to get a quarterback, yada yada. No, we improved our draft position. That was a second-round value jump to go from 21 to 12. We’re excited about where that moves us on our draft board, the players that we see would be available there.”
Not trading up for one of those quarterbacks could leave the Bills stuck with a lower-rated signal caller and AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman. Such an outcome might not completely square with what Beane said about the position Tuesday.
“You’ve got to have a franchise quarterback,” he said. “That’s one of the main jobs of a GM is to find a franchise quarterback, it’s a quarterback league, I’ll say it every single time. You have to have one.”
Indeed, quarterback was at the top of the list of draft needs offered Tuesday by the oldest player on the Bills’ roster, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. At 34, Alexander spoke about his transition from being a player to being a broadcaster and gave an honest assessment of the roster.
“This is a quarterback-driven league — whether that quarterback is on our roster or somebody that we decide we want to move up and get,” he said. “That’s something that you always, as an organization, that you want to be able to build on.
“We have other needs as well. Obviously losing guys like [Eric] Wood, Cordy Glenn to a trade, now Richie [Incognito] to retirement, you want to have a solid offensive line. You could have an all-pro quarterback, but if we can’t keep him upright, it doesn’t matter. I think with a guy like David Carr, went No. 1 overall, had a lackluster career because he got hit a lot early in his years.
“[And] linebacker, obviously we talked about losing a guy like Preston [Brown], so finding, again, whether he’s on our roster or in the draft, I think those are kind of the three spots that I kind of look towards as far as seeing what their plan is and how things kind of unveil themselves through that process.”
Quarterback, offensive line and linebacker are draft needs for Buffalo. From more of a long-term perspective, three other positions — running back, wide receiver and cornerback — stand out because of the ages and contract situations of current players.
If the Bills stay put at No. 12 and do not trade up or down, Beane stressed to the team’s official website, “We have to draft best player available.”
Assuming the top four quarterbacks are off the board by No. 12, which player could be the best available for Buffalo with its first selection?
RB Saquon Barkley, G Quenton Nelson, DE Bradley Chubb, LB Roquan Smith, CB Denzel Ward, S Derwin James, S Minkah Fitzpatrick: It would take a major miracle for Barkley to fall to No. 12, and the rest of the players listed are all expected to be taken within the top-10 picks of the draft or so. If one falls to the Bills at No. 12, it would be a win for Buffalo. The only question is whether it would make sense to take one of the safeties, James or Fitzpatrick, given the Bills already having Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The best outcome in that case might be to trade the pick away.
Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph; quarterbacks: Without knowing for sure how the Bills feel about Jackson or Rudolph, it is difficult to tell whether they would entertain the idea of taking either at No. 12. Besides the obvious risk of reaching for a quarterback who is not as highly regarded as the top group in the class, either could still be on the board with their No. 22 selection. One could argue if the Bills feel strongly about either Jackson or Rudolph, it wouldn’t matter whether they are selected at No. 12 or 22 — the pick will either succeed or fail. But it could come at the cost of missing out on a player at another position at No. 12 who would not remain on the board at No. 22.
Tremaine Edmunds and Rashaan Evans; linebackers: The Bills have been connected to Edmunds in some mock drafts in recent weeks for his athleticism and versatility. He could play middle linebacker in the Bills’ 4-3 defense, replacing free-agent departure Preston Brown, or take over at outside linebacker for Alexander upon his looming retirement. Evans offers similar versatility. As with any non-quarterback selection at No. 12, there would be questions about Buffalo’s strategy in collecting draft capital the past year only to pass on taking a quarterback with its first pick.
Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan; defensive tackles: The Bills do not have an immediate need at defensive tackle after signing Star Lotulelei and re-signing Kyle Williams in free agency, but Williams will be 35 in June and seems to be playing year-to-year. If the Bills feel strongly about any of the top defensive tackles in the draft, they could solidify the center of their defensive line for several years — but not come away with a top quarterback.
Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Mike Hughes; cornerbacks: Buffalo signed Vontae Davis to a one-year deal this offseason but have little depth at the position and could use a long-term starter opposite Tre’Davious White. Again, if the Bills feel strongly about any of these players, they could settle this position for years to come but not address quarterback with a top pick.
Calvin Ridley; wide receiver: Ridley has generally stood alone as the top wide receiver in the draft and probably the only one with an argument to be selected No. 12. The Bills’ scouts will not have to sweat Ridley because the team already has an up-close look at him from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spending last season at Alabama. Naturally, selecting a wide receiver without a long-term answer at quarterback would raise eyebrows.
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