News and Views

Colts Are In No Hurry To Extend Andrew Luck Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 12:03 PT |  Reported by the Indianapolis Star News
The Facts: Luck will probably become the NFL's highest-paid player at some point. But we've not reached that point. Not yet anyway. Colts owner Jim Irsay was pretty unequivocal on Monday when asked at the NFL's owners meetings whether a contract extension for Luck is currently on the table, something that had previously been reported. "Not right now," Irsay said. "I think that'll be a focus of next offseason that we'll address."
Diehards Line: According to Star staffer Stephen Holder, the bottom line where Luck's contract is concerned is this: "As much as the Colts love their franchise quarterback and acknowledge that he is their cornerstone, there is little incentive for the team to extend Luck right now. ..." True story. Luck is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract at $3.404 million and has no significant leverage to demand a new deal. Because Luck was a first-round pick, the Colts have until May 1 to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract, which would essentially lock him up through 2016. Under that scenario, the Colts would not be at risk of losing Luck to another team in the spring of 2016 because they would have him under contract. Meanwhile, the Colts and Luck's representatives could then work toward a new deal without the specter of Luck walking away hanging over the negotiations. And, in a worst-case scenario, if the sides couldn't come to terms, Luck would have the luxury of knowing he would be due more than $16 million in 2016 without doing anything. It all makes perfect sense.
Tomlin Thinks Steelers Offense Will Be Better This Year Than Last Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 12:02 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: The Steelers finished second in the NFL in total offense last season and seventh in scoring and HC Mike Tomlin said he expects the unit to do even better in 2015. "My expectation is they're capable of being the very best because we've got the goods," Tomlin said Tuesday. "We've got guys that are capable, we've got guys that know what they're doing, we've got guys that played together for an extended period of time now so that's a reasonable expectation."
Diehards Line: Indeed, after the Steelers averaged 411.1 yards and 27.3 points per game last season, there's ample reason for optimism. The Steelers return every starter on offense and have arguably the NFL's best quarterback-running back-wide receiver trio in Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Bell is expected to miss the first two games of 2015 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, but the Steelers are convinced DeAngelo Williams can handle things during Bell's absence. ... One trap the Steelers have to avoid falling into is assuming the offense will get better just because they are loaded at the skill positions and have an experienced but relatively young offensive line.
Meeting With Team Officials Sold Bears On Jay Cutler Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 8:56 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: The Bears are all in on Cutler. They have no other choice. In the days leading up to the deadline for $10 million of quarterback's 2016 money becoming guaranteed, the Bears' brass met with Cutler sans the player's agent. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that after the meeting the Bears left convinced Cutler was their starter. The team didn't talk about redoing the quarterback's contract, per Rapoport.
Diehards Line: The meeting came after lukewarm comments about Cutler from HC John Fox and GM Ryan Pace at the NFL Scouting Combine. During Wednesday's media session at the NFL Annual Meeting, Fox tried to talk up Cutler. "If you're looking at a depth chart before we can get anything going, I'd say he'd be first on the depth chart," Fox said. As's Kevin Patra notes, Cutler possesses the tools -- including a big arm -- that scouts love. It's why he keeps getting chances despite his wayward on-field performances. And even if that meeting convinced team officials he was their starter, they also had zero alternatives and an unmovable contract that shades the situation. Patra summed up: "Until Cutler proves it on the field, we'll choose to believe that Fox and his team are making the best of a situation they'd rather not be in."
Coughlin Optimistic But Vague On Timeline For Victor Cruz Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 8:55 PT |  Reported by New York Newsday
The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Tom Coughlin has no doubt Cruz will return from his torn patellar tendon. "I think he'll be the player that he was and hopefully better," he said Wednesday morning. As for when that will happen? "I'd be careful of what I would say there," he said. "Hopefully it's the first game, but, you know what, if it isn't, we've done that one before. We just went through it."
Diehards Line: Coughlin was referencing how rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham was sidelined for the first few weeks of the 2014 season with a hamstring injury before the Giants unleashed him upon the world. Coughlin said he saw Cruz doing some running in the Giants' field house recently. He said Cruz looks lighter and in shape. "He's coming along very well," Coughlin said, adding that the medical staff has told him he can expect a full recovery. There is no timeline for Cruz's return. Still, Coughlin did echo what Cruz has been saying for the last few weeks, that the start of training camp is a goal. "Even if it's just to bring him [along]," Coughlin said. "You're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I would hope that would be the target."
Reid Setting The Bar High For Travis Kelce; Wants TE To Get Bigger Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 8:53 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Kelce led the Chiefs in catches (67) and receiving yards (862) last season and for the most part was the one receiver the Chiefs could count on in an otherwise lethargic passing game. That has HC Andy Reid and the Chiefs dreaming of better things from Kelce. Reid called Kelce elite this week at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “Absolutely,’’ Reid told reporters.
Diehards Line:“Tremendously talented. Loves to play the game. He’s like a little kid out there. You’d think the natural progression would be more and better and he was pretty good last year.’’ Kelce missed almost all of the 2013 season, which would have been his rookie year, because of an ailing knee. He was better last year, but the Chiefs weren’t quite comfortable giving Kelce a lot of playing time early in the season. He forced his way into more of that with an eight-catch, 93-yard, one-touchdown game against the New England Patriots in Week 4. “You could see the progress every week in a positive direction,’’ Reid said before noting that Kelce played at about 250 pounds last season but the coach wants him bigger this year. He indicated he believed Kelce could handle an additional 15 pounds without losing speed or quickness.
Cardinals Sign TE Ifeanyi Momah Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 8:50 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: The Cardinals have now signed two players that took part in the league’s first veteran combine on Sunday. After signing wide receiver Nathan Slaughter earlier this week, the team also signed Momah to a contract on Wednesday.
Diehards Line: Momah was an undrafted free agent out of Boston College in 2013. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and was released during final cuts. He also sent time with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in 2014. He was released by Detroit in February for a failure to disclose a physical condition.
Rivera Hoping Cam Newton Gets A New Deal This Offseason Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 3:44 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... HC Ron Rivera was posed an interesting question on Wednesday about his franchise QB: What if Newton, a quarterback with marketing interests elsewhere, simply wanted to let his deal play out and take a gander at the market? "I don't know," Rivera said. "I'd like to believe both sides can get together and we'll see what happens." Does that mean he'd like something done before the season, if only to provide himself some peace of mind? "Personally? Yeah, I would," he said. "But they have a timetable. Both sides do, I imagine. Both sides have a plan and hopefully we can get it all worked out together."
Diehards Line: As's Conor Orr suggests, Newton hitting free agency would be fascinating if only because we don't see it happen with extremely talented quarterbacks in their prime. We could think of a laundry list of big-ticket suitors. But for now, Rivera is hoping that doesn't need to happen. He has big plans for Newton in 2015, including more no huddle. Rivera went on to say that Newton needs to continue to try to break away from relying on his athleticism and sharpen himself as a passer. As Orr put it, "Thinking of Newton as a 100 percent complete quarterback is terrifying for many defensive coordinators."
Eagles Comparing Sam Bradford To Peyton Manning? Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 3:43 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Speaking at the NFL Annual Meeting on Wednesday, HC Chip Kelly said he hopes Bradford will emerge as a legitimate franchise QB with the Eagles. Kelly didn't have to sell Bradford's franchise-altering potential to owner Jeffrey Lurie in advance of the March 10 trade in which 2014 starter Nick Foles was sent to the Rams. In the lead-up to the 2010 NFL Draft, Lurie disclosed Tuesday, the Eagles evaluated Bradford as "the best young quarterback we'd seen. ... Probably since Peyton Manning coming out of college."
Diehards Line: As's Chris Wesseling points out, it was not the first time this week that an Eagles operative drew comparisons between Bradford and the cream of the NFL's quarterback crop. "When you look at all the great quarterbacks," Kelly said, "Peyton Manning has missed a year, Tom Brady has missed a year, Drew Brees has missed a year. Again, we felt like to get a player of Sam's caliber, it wouldn't have happened unless he was injured." Kelly watched Bradford's film "hundreds" of times while researching the trade, Lurie added. OC Pat Shurmur, perhaps the strongest advocate for the trade, was the play-caller during Bradford's Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign back in 2010. While there's no shortage of positive talk, Bradford still has plenty to prove on the field.
Tomsula: Reggie Bush Can Be An Every-Down Back Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 3:42 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: HC Jim Tomsula at last month's combine was hellbent on bringing Frank Gore back to San Francisco. Instead, the 49ers wound up with Bush, a completely different type of runner in the backfield, but an athlete the coach gushed over Wednesday. "Reggie can be an every-down back. He's done that in the NFL," Tomsula said, pointing specifically to Bush's distant 1,086-yard campaign with the Dolphins in 2011.
Diehards Line: Bush also put up 1,000 yards rushing two seasons ago in Detroit, but Tomsula acknowledged the team isn't counting on the back for that kind of workload, saying: "I don't know that we're looking at it that way." It's hard to imagine the Niners not utilizing Carlos Hyde as their primary back. Kendall Hunter is also in the mix. "Right now, we've got three guys in the backfield that we feel great about, we feel really, really good about," Tomsula said. "And they're all just a little bit different. So as we get rolling here and we throw the ball out on the field, let's take a look at what each guy does and build off that. ..." Fantasy owners should continue to expect Bush to have a change of pace role until further notice.
NFL Seriously Considering Changes To Extra Point Rules For 2015 Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Time: 3:41 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: There will almost certainly be significant changes to the league's extra point rules for next season.
Diehards Line: While the owners did not vote on a specific proposal Wednesday, they did have a "lively" discussion about potential changes, according to NFL Competition Committee co-chairman Rich McKay. "It was a very good discussion, there was a clear sentiment that we want change this year," McKay said. "And the charge to us as a Competition Committee was to come back with a recommended proposal, do it in the next 30 days, and give everyone a chance to look at it and vote on it." The league will formulate a more uniform proposal over the next two months and should vote on something specific in May. Among the possibilities? A team could go for two points from the 1 1/2-yard line or kick an extra point from the 15; eliminating the extra point altogether and just placing the ball at the 2-yard line, making it a two-point play; narrowing the goal posts; and a college-type rule where a defense could score a touchdown on a blocked kick or interception or fumble return on a two-point conversion. Regardless, the league seems determined to make progress in the next 30 days.