Wed Apr 21 10:14pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson participates in the school's Pro Day football workout for NFL scouts in Norman, Okla., in this Friday, March 12, 2021, file photo. The coronavirus pandemic scuttled the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, leaving prospects to show off for scouts, coaches and general managers at their college pro day instead. While players lamented the lost opportunity to gather in Indy to be poked, prodded, timed and tested and to square off against their peers an invitation was still a golden ticket. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, FILE)
The NFL is exploring changes to the annual NFL scouting combine to improve the professional and medical experience for draft prospects, a person familiar with those discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The combine in Indianapolis was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so prospects displayed their talents for scouts, coaches and general managers at their college pro days instead.
Teams interviewed players virtually and most medical and psychological testing was done by video. About 150 draft prospects did in-person medical evaluations in Indianapolis earlier this month.
The league is seeking input from players who attended the combine previously and rookies who went through this year's version. Teams and their medical staffs also will provide their assessment.
The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the conversations are ongoing, said the league is evaluating all aspects of the combine, including the player experience. Calling players by their name instead of a number, limiting the number of medical personnel who examine guys and ensuring prospects aren't asked humiliating questions are a point of emphasis.
In 2010, then-Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized to Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick Dez Bryant for asking during a pre-draft visit whether his mother was a prostitute.
In 2016, then-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn apologized to Eli Apple because one of his coaches asked the cornerback his sexual preference.
In 2018, former LSU running back Derrius Guice said one team at the combine asked about his sexuality and another inquired if his mother was a prostitute.
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, who played 16 seasons between 2004-20, compared the interview process to an interrogation.
''I can remember sitting in a dark room with a huge spotlight,'' Watson told the AP. ''There's a seat there like you're being interrogated for a crime and all the front office staff is in the back in the shadows and you can't see them. The guy grabbed my wrist and he's like: `I can feel your pulse, so I know if you're lying to me. Have you ever smoked marijuana?' I said: `No.' I really hadn't. I've never smoked. He said: `I think you're lying. I can feel your pulse. Are you lying to us?' I said: `No, I'm not.'
''So for a minute, I thought I actually did smoke marijuana and maybe I need to confess to a crime that I didn't commit. But these sorts of tactics that are happening at the combine and that are not being monitored definitely need to be done away with.''
New Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had a playful way to test the competitiveness of draft prospects. He played rock, paper, scissors virtually with a couple guys and one of his assistant coaches played Jeopardy with them.
''When you compete with somebody that's competitive, they're going to go at you no matter what game you're playing,'' Sirianni said.
Sirianni appreciated the virtual interview process.
''At the combine, you're limited to how many times you can talk to them, how long you can talk to them for,'' he said. ''We were able to get meaningful conversations not under a time limit. It was just great work by the scouts and by the assistant coaches to get that work done on the players and really get to know the players. In a lot of aspects, I think we got way more out of those meetings than we do out of Indy.''
Count Miami Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett among those who prefer pro days over the combine.
''I'm not a fan of the combine,'' he said. ''I think it's very unnecessary. You're going to do the same thing on pro day.''
The Las Vegas Raiders signed free-agent cornerback Casey Hayward to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday. The 31-year-old, a second-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2012, will join cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen (taken in the second round in 2019), Damon Arnette (a first-rounder in 2020), Amik Robertson (fourth-rounder in 2020) and Nate Hobbs (fifth-rounder this year). Hayward will reunite with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was his coordinator the last four years with the Los Angeles Chargers. He didn't play in a full season last year for the first time since 2013, recording an interception and eight passes defensed in 14 games (13 starts). Hayward had 66 passes defensed, which led the AFC, in his five years with the Chargers. He also led the NFL with seven interceptions in 2016 and made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017.
Former Denver Broncos special teams ace/linebacker Joe Jones is signing an undisclosed deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday, according to a source. The Broncos are losing both Jones and safety Will Parks, who were both standout special teams players for the Broncos in the last four seasons. It doesn't come as a huge surprise, though, as Denver put a big emphasis on special teams in the draft last week. The 27-year-old Jones was undrafted out of Northwestern and recorded 31 combined tackles (23 solo) in 49 games (zero starts) for the Broncos from 2017 through last year. Jones will help boost Tampa's special teams unit in 2021.
The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free-agent safety Will Parks to a one-year deal worth up to $1.13 million on Wednesday, according to a source. Parks took a visit with the Detroit Lions as well, but he is choosing the Chiefs. He started his career as a safety and was taken in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. Parks spent the first four seasons of his career as a rotational safety before joining the Philadelphia Eagles last spring. But he was waived in December and rejoined Denver to play in nickel situations for the final four games of the season. In 10 games between the Eagles and Broncos in 2020, the 26-year-old had 31 tackles (three for loss) and a sack. It's likely the Chiefs will view him as more of cornerback depth at this point in his career.
Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who knows how current Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is feeling these days, thinks that Rodgers is unlikely to back down. "Knowing Aaron, and I think I know him fairly well, if he has a grudge, whether it be against the organization or a player or an arch-rival, or family, friends, he ain't budging," Favre said on the "Bolling with Favre" podcast. If Rodgers were to abruptly retire, he'd owe the team around $23 million over the next two years. The Packers traded up in the first round of last year's draft to select Jordan Love, Rodgers' eventual successor, and Rodgers didn't take kindly to that. Rodgers has reportedly mocked general manager Brian Gutekunst in group chats with teammates, referring to him as Jerry Krause, the former Bulls GM who got into it with Michael Jordan. At this point, anything could happen with Rodgers and the Packers. Buckle up.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman confirmed that quarterback Kirk Cousins is the team's starter. The Vikings drafted quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round of last week's NFL draft, but it was done to create competition behind Cousins. "Right now, there's no question that Kirk Cousins is our quarterback," Spielman said. Mond will enter the mix behind Cousins, and it also includes Nate Stanley and Jake Browning. Cousins is due to count $45 million against the salary cap in 2022, which would all become dead money if he was cut. While Cousins remains the starter for now, the Vikings also considered making a move to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, which means they are preparing for Cousins' eventual run in Minnesota. Cousins isn't the sexiest pick in fantasy, but he has plenty of weapons and should be seen as a low-end QB1 option.
The Dallas Cowboys are waiving starting defensive tackle Antwaun Woods on Wednesday, according to a source. Woods becomes a salary cap casualty after the Cowboys selected defensive tackles Osa Odighizuwa in the third round and Quinton Bohanna in the sixth round of last week's NFL draft. Woods started 32 games for Dallas from 2018 through last season and was set to make $2.1 million under the restricted free-agent tender. He had 33 tackles, one sack and four QB pressures in 14 games (seven starts) last season. The 6-foot-1, 310-pounder was more of a fit in former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme. Dallas also waived cornerback Saivion Smith after the team selected corners Kelvin Joseph (second round) and Nahshon Wright (third round) in the draft. The Cowboys also released center Adam Redmond, defensive tackle Walter Palmore, defensive end LaDarius Hamilton and cornerback Kemon Hall.
New England Patriots RB Sony Michel could potentially lose his roster spot to fourth-round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson because the latter is more likely to be a factor on special teams, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
The Las Vegas Raiders will release safety Jeff Heath on Wednesday, according to a source. Heath was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 10 last year, but he'll be looking for a new team this offseason. It comes after the Raiders drafted safeties Trevon Moehrig in the second round and Tyree Gillespie in the fourth round in last week's NFL draft. They also officially added cornerback Casey Hayward on Tuesday. The Raiders think that Moehrig can step in and start at the free safety spot. Heath led the team with three interceptions in 2020. The soon-to-be 30-year-old signed a two-year deal worth up to $8 million last offseason after spending seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. In 13 games last year, Heath had 37 tackles and four pass breakups.
Las Vegas Raiders S Jeff Heath will be released, according to a source Tuesday, May 4.
Free-agent WR Damiere Byrd (Patriots) agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Tuesday, May 4, according to a source. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Fantasy Spin: Byrd is coming a productive 2020 season and could compete for the No. 3 receiver job during training camp. Fantasy players can monitor the situation because Byrd could be a late round option if he receives a decent role in the passing game.
Free-agent CB Casey Hayward (Chargers) agreed to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders Tuesday, May 4. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Jacksonville Jaguars S Doug Middleton was released Tuesday, May 4.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, one of the fastest players in the NFL, will compete in the USA Track and Field Golden Games and Distance Open this Sunday in Walnut, California. He is listed among the participants in the 100-meter dash. The 6-foot-4, 229-pounder was a standout hurdler and long-jumper in high school, in addition to playing football and basketball. Metcalf ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 combine and reached a top speed of 22.64 mph last year, according to Next Gen Stats. He made the Pro Bowl in 2020 with 83 catches for a franchise-record 1,303 yards. Metcalf caught five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the playoff loss to the Rams last year and will enter the 2021 season as a top-five fantasy wideout.
Free-agent TE Darren Fells (Texans) is scheduled to visit with the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, May 4.
Free-agent S Malik Hooker (Colts) is meeting with the Miami Dolphins Tuesday, May 4, according to a source.
Free-agent veteran tight end Darren Fells is visiting with the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, according to a source. Fells is coming off 11 touchdowns in the last two seasons with the Houston Texans and could return to Detroit, where he played in 2017. The 35-year-old also had 55 receptions on 76 targets for 653 yards in 32 games (28 starts) over the last two years with Houston. He played mostly in a backup role to Jordan Akins for most of last year, catching 21 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. The Lions already have T.J. Hockenson as their top pass-catching tight end, so if Fells were to return to Detroit, he'd have very minimal fantasy value as a backup once again. Fells had 17 catches (26 targets) for just 177 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games for the Lions back in 2017.
San Francisco 49ers incumbent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said he wants to help rookie quarterback Trey Lance with his transition to the NFL after the team took him at No. 3 overall in the first round of last week's draft. Garoppolo entered the league with the New England Patriots and learned behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. "I try to use my own personal experiences and just what I went through, what helped me, what challenged me as a young player," Garoppolo said. "I'm going to use those tools that helped me and try to help Trey out." Jimmy G is 24-9 in his time with the 49ers, but he's been injured in two of his three seasons. Garoppolo is expected to enter the 2021 season as the starter under center, but another injury or poor performance could thrust Lance into the spotlight at some point in his rookie season. There is no definitive plan or timetable for Lance to take the starting job next season.
Former Indianapolis Colts first-round safety Malik Hooker is visiting with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, according to a source. Hooker has yet to play a full season in the NFL after being selected 15th overall out of Ohio State in 2017. The 25-year-old played in only two games last year before he tore his Achilles and missed the rest of the season. He's missed 14 games with various injuries in his four seasons in the league, which is why Indianapolis declined to pick up his fifth-year option for the 2021 campaign. Hooker can still be productive on the field, he just needs to stay healthy. He has seven interceptions, 124 tackles (81 solo), 11 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 36 career games (35 starts).
Cleveland Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (heart) fell to pick No. 52 overall in last week's NFL draft because a heart issue came up late in the pre-draft process, according to sources. However, doctors ultimately cleared him. If not for the heart issue, Owusu-Koramoah could've come off the board in the first round. Cleveland traded up to keep him from sliding any further on Day 2. The former Notre Dame product is a linebacker/safety hybrid, which will allow the Browns to drop him into coverage or rush him off the edge. Owusu-Koramoah will bring intensity and a high motor to his new club. He finished his senior season for the Fighting Irish with 62 tackles (11 for loss) and three forced fumbles.
New York Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (foot) broke a small bone in his foot and likely will undergo surgery that will keep him out for eight to 10 weeks, according to sources. Williams will miss organized team activities and minicamp, but he should be ready to return for training camp this summer. The 23-year-old is one of the better pass-rushers for Gang Green's defense, so this is notable. He finished last season with 55 tackles and seven sacks for the Jets. As long as Williams doesn't suffer any setbacks during his rehab process, he should be good to go for Week 1 of the 2021 regular season. In 13 games (nine starts) in his rookie season in 2019, Williams had just 28 tackles (four for loss) and 2.5 sacks.