Butch Dill/Associated Press
The Colin Kaepernick doubters relent, another weird draft story and top free-agency winners so far. All this and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. It isn’t a coincidence
The video was fairly unremarkable. In it, a hyper-fit athlete with a tight passing motion threw dimes to a receiver downfield.
The guy looked like a top-15 NFL quarterback. And he is. Except he isn’t.
The footage was of Colin Kaepernick throwing on a small field in Houston. My belief—and it’s an educated one—is that the video release was tactical. Kaepernick, who is embroiled in a collusion case against the NFL, was reminding everyone of two things:
1. He can still play;
2. There’s only one reason why he isn’t: He’s being blackballed.
That second point is remarkably clear. It has been for some time, but it’s now impossible to ignore, even if you’re the most hardened anti-Kaepernick, see-no-evil person.
I want to be careful with what I’m about to say. This isn’t as much reported fact as it is a feeling based on speaking to a handful of team officials after the Kaepernick workout video surfaced.
For months, old-school NFL types insisted Kaepernick wasn’t in the league because he wasn’t good enough, not because his political stances scared or annoyed some teams.
Now, however, even those hardcore NFL types are admitting there’s more to the story than ability.
The reason Kaepernick still can’t find a job—even as a backup—the counterargument goes, is because his collusion case has put league owners on the defensive. However, signing Kaepernick would effectively end the case. Thus, that argument makes no sense.
What does make sense is that Kaepernick has become a symbol on both sides of the social justice movement, and ever since then, no NFL team has interest in employing him.
Want proof? Take a look at Eric Reid.
Reid joined Kaepernick early on during the original national anthem protests. Now Reid, who’s arguably the best free-agent safety available, remains unsigned—at least as of this writing. He isn’t a veteran on his last football legs. He’s only 26 years old, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2013 and is one of the NFL’s savviest defensive players.
Reid believes he’s being blackballed.
Eric Reid @E_Reid35
The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous. If you think is, then your mindset is part of the problem too.
Eric Reid @E_Reid35
GMs aren’t the hold up broski. It’s ownership. People who know football know who can play. People who know me, know my character. https://t.co/M9ULziZg5V
In December, Reid predicted his protests might hurt him once he became a free agent.
“I would say I understand that’s a possibility,” he said then, according to ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner. “And I’m completely fine with it. The things that I’ve done, I stand by, and I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said, I’m fine with whatever outcome happens because of that.”
Richard Sherman, who signed with the 49ers last week, isn’t. During his introductory press conference Tuesday, Sherman touched upon Reid’s situation:
“He’s made enough plays to be signed with a team and to make his money. He deserves his money. … So, there is concern there, because you would think a player of his caliber and his quality would be picked up by now. … If he doesn’t, then I think there will be a conversation with the league office and the union on potential league action.”
Throughout free agency, a bevy of unremarkable quarterbacks have signed deals. The Bengals signed Matt Barkley for two years. The Cardinals signed Mike Glennon to a two-year, $8 million contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. They also gave Sam Bradford a one-year, $20 million deal with a $20 million option in 2019, per Rapoport. The Bills signed AJ McCarron. The Broncos traded for Trevor Siemian. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 35, re-signed with Tampa Bay. The Raiders signed quarterback Josh Johnson, who hasn’t thrown a regular-season pass since 2011.
And while the free-agent market has been sluggish for safeties, the Texans signed Tyrann Mathieu, and longtime Packers safety Morgan Burnett is signing with the Steelers, according to Rapaport.
Meanwhile, two leaders of one of the greatest social movements in sports history remain unsigned.
That isn’t a coincidence.
2. ‘Do you like llamas?’
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
One of the things I like most about draft season is asking prospects what types of weird questions they’ve fielded from teams during the process. Da’Shawn Hand, a promising defensive end from Alabama, had another doozy.
“You prepare for a lot of the weird questions you may get,” Hand told B/R. “But there was one that got me. One team asked me, ‘Do you like llamas?'”
I asked Hand three or four times to repeat what he said. Yup, he said llamas.
“I told the team, ‘I’ve never been around a llama, so I don’t know,” Hand explained, laughing as he told the story. “I have no idea what that has to do with football.”
Well, true football players like alpacas.
Hand, who weighed in at 297 pounds at the scouting combine, is someone to watch closely. There’s massive potential there. At the combine, he ran the seventh-best 40-yard dash among defensive linemen at 4.83 seconds. His second run wasn’t bad, either, clocking in at 4.92 seconds.
That makes him a big man who can run fast. And that potential likely will cause him to be drafted in the early rounds. Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller predicts Hand will go in Round 3.
Given that he is nearly a sure thing during draft weekend, I also asked Hand how playing at Alabama prepared him for the NFL.
“The big thing is structure,” he said. “[Head coach Nick] Saban teaches you how to be ready for anything…the NFL throws your way. That’s what Coach Saban does for you.”
3. Jets taking the plunge again
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
In the wake of the Jets’ blockbuster decision to trade three second-round picks to the Colts so they could move up from No. 6 to No. 3 in this year’s draft, we’d like to offer this cautionary tale.
In 1980, the Jets traded two first-rounders to move into the second overall slot, where they drafted Texas receiver and Olympic sprinter Johnny “Lam” Jones.
Jones could run, to no one’s surprise, but he couldn’t catch. And catching, sources say, is a requirement for a receiver. In five years with the Jets, Jones caught only 13 touchdowns.
Trading into the top five isn’t always a bad idea, but it’s a risky one. In 2013, the Dolphins sent the 12th overall pick and a second-rounder to the Raiders for the third overall pick. They selected Dion Jordan, who had three sacks in his two years with Miami.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, this is the fourth time the Jets have traded into the top five. The previous three times, the Jets drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez, defensive lineman Dewayne Robertson and Jones, who combined for zero Pro Bowls.
This doesn’t mean this Jets’ trade into the top five won’t work. It might.
Yet these kinds of trades often go one way or another—prosperous or a bust. There typically is no middle ground.
Choose wisely, Jets. Choose wisely.
4. Don’t mess with the Texans
Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Texans are building a seriously talented defense, as the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain noted. With JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney and new defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin, Houston has the makings of what could be the best D in football.
Considering how Watt and Clowney have been hampered in recent seasons, the key moving forward is health. But if these guys stay on the field next season, no quarterback will look forward to facing them.
5. Top offseason winners so far…
Cleveland Browns @Browns
.@TyrodTaylor, @RandallTime and @God_Son80 in the building ✊ https://t.co/kK8izhPrJe
Browns: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is not just an underrated quarterback; he’s also an underrated player. Among all of the moves made this offseason, I like this one the most.
Colts: They received three second-round picks to move down three spots. They almost own the early rounds of this draft (see: Browns, Cleveland).
49ers: Added defensive back Richard Sherman, bolstering the defense for one of the fastest up-and-coming teams in the league. San Francisco is rapidly building quite a team.
6. Seattle’s one-man band is set for a return engagement
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Few quarterbacks in NFL history have ever played with so little around them on offense as Russell Wilson did last season. Seattle didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver, and Wilson himself led the team in rushing with 586 yards.
It will only get worse for him this fall, as the Seahawks are in the midst of a major rebuild. The turnover is shaping up as one of the most dramatic we’ve ever seen:
Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman
#Seahawks lost this off-season: Sheldon Richardson, Richard Sherman, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Mike Davis, DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, Matt Tobin, Kam Chancellor[?] Cliff Avril[?] +2nd, 5th round picks [Richardson, Tobin trades]
In the past, Wilson had a great defense to get his back. That defense is now a shell of what it once was.
That means Wilson once again will be running for his life.
Maybe more than ever.
7. You could argue, but you’d be wrong
Bob Leverone/Associated Press
I got into a bit of a Twitter kerfuffle—a brouhaha, if you will—when I said teams weren’t chasing after Ndamukong Suh in free agency partly because they’re realizing he doesn’t always play hard.
A player for the Chargers came at me. A Miami blogger came at me. A Miami writer came at me. I’m opinionated. Others are opinionated. It’s all good.
But I’ve watched Suh his entire career. I’ve seen him wreck offensive lines and bust his butt. I’ve also seen him not work hard far too many times.
I’m not alone in this view; some teams privately feel the same.
It isn’t personal. It’s just the way it is.
8. The more things change…the more things change
Denver Broncos @Broncos
Looking good in the orange & blue, @casekeenum7! https://t.co/SbWLYFQRpx
When the 2018 season starts, half of all NFL teams may have different starting quarterbacks than they did last season, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith noted Friday. That isn’t wildly unusual, but it’s still a lot.
Not so long ago, teams were slightly more patient with their QBs. Some franchises now, however, have greater belief in the draft.
As a result, teams are more comfortable moving on after a year or two because they believe the next guy in the next draft will be The One. And if not him, then the next guy.
That makes for a never-ending QB carousel, one that likely won’t end soon.
9. Sam Bradford gets paid
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Sam Bradford has spent much of his career injured—he’s played all 16 games only twice in his eight-year career—but that hasn’t stopped him from getting paid. Lots of money. Lots and lots of money.
This year, the Arizona Cardinals will give Bradford $15 million guaranteed plus another $5 million in per-game roster bonuses, per Spotrac. If he plays all 16 games, he’ll have earned over $134 million in his career, by my count.
NFL Stats shared an even more remarkable Bradford financial timeline on Twitter:
NFL Stats @NFL_Stats
Over his NFL Career, Sam Bradford has made $14.2M PER YEAR. That’s more than all of these QBs per year: https://t.co/M0OczT0gH3
That’s good money if you can get it.
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who suffered a severe spinal injury in December that already has him ruled out for the 2018 season, is still fighting to learn how to walk again. Recently, though, he posted a video of himself doing pull-ups.
It’s a simple thing—a pull-up—but coming from someone who is learning how to walk again, the video was downright inspirational.
We haven’t seen the last of Shazier. He’ll be back.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.